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Three Views: Born in China

April 21, 2017

Born in China Review By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The latest Earth Day release from Disneynature, after taking a break last year, Born in China is another beautifully filmed and often lovely entry into the studio’s growing roster of modern day True Life Adventures.

This time around, we are given a rare glimpse into the wilds and mountainous regions of China, and the many animals that inhabit them.  The film follows a mother snow leopard trying to protect and provide for her two young cubs, an adolescent golden monkey who is jealous of the affection his parents are paying to his new little sister and falls in with a group of “lost boys,” and finally a panda mother affectionately caring for her baby.

Director Chuan Lu and his camera crew get up close and personal with the wildlife, capturing some wonderful images of the animals and their natural landscapes, and Born in China is just as visually pleasing as we have come to expect from Disneynature.  The animal characters are of course given names, this time guided along by John Krasinski’s gentle narration, and the story works in the usual themes of parents providing for their young, and the circle of life between both predator and prey and life and death.  This allows the film to touch on traditional Chinese beliefs about reincarnation, and that cranes transport souls after death.  The idea that pandas are a living embodiment of the yin and yang philosophy, represented by their black and white fur, is also brought up in the narration.

The film doesn’t quite reach the heights of the previous franchise entry Monkey Kingdom, which was released two years ago and remains a particular high point for the series.  But Born in China is a lovely film to look at, that is sweet and cute enough for young audiences, while also offering enough gorgeous visuals to be worthy of being seen on the big screen for adults as well.  The images of an adorable baby panda tumbling over itself while trying to climb a tree, are worth the price of admission alone.

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Born in China Review By Erin Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Following Disneynature’s series of Earth Day films, they are now releasing Born in China, a docu-style nature film that follows several animal families in rural China – snow leopards, golden snub-nosed monkeys, chirus, and of course, pandas.  As we watch each of these families over the course of one year, we see the struggles and joys of growing up wild.  While still showing nature taking its toll at times, this is a pretty tame introduction to wildlife that youngsters can enjoy.

Overall, the narration is geared fairly young, but John Krasinski makes it work.  It’s also impossible to deny that the imagery is beautiful, which is really what makes the film worth checking out on the big screen.  There is the added bonus that a portion of ticket sales on opening weekend will go to World Wildlife Fund to protect wildlife in China, like the families we see in the film.

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Born in China Review By Tony Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Born in China is the latest Disneynature feature released for Earth Day 2017. Though we often see China as teeming with people, they are concentrated in cities lit up in the film’s opening nighttime satellite image. China has vast and beautiful areas of various wilderness. In the barren western mountains, a mother snow leopard struggles to survive with her two cubs on a diet of mountain sheep and sometimes yaks led out to graze, while fending off a rival leopard family. In the Sichuan region we meet a troop of golden monkeys and a mother panda with her cub, both living relatively peaceful lives with the only threat coming from a goshawk waiting to snatch away any unattended babies. Some other species are featured less personally. A flock of cranes flying in slow motion and honking like geese is an iconic linking device. The life cycle of a herd of antelope and the wolves that prey on them are also shown.

Like the other films in this series, Born in China is visually stunning, aimed at families with names given to characters in the three main groups and clever editing coupled with breezy narration from John Krasinski that emphasize the relationships between them in a slightly anthromorphic way while reasonably demonstrating their natural behaviour–a Disney trademark that goes back to the days of the founder’s True Life Adventures. Also as in the other films, we are treated in the closing credits to come of the challenges faced by the largely Chinese crews led by veteran nature cameramen directed by Chuan Lu. Finally, a decent package of elementary educational support materials is available free online.

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Consensus: The latest release from Disneynature, Born in China is another beautifully filmed offering from the studio, matching its many lovely images of animals and nature with gentle narration by John Krasinski. ★★★ (out of 4)

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