Leopard Son, The
Entertainment: +3
Acceptability: +2

The Discovery Channel cable TV network makes its first venture into feature films with this colorful and illuminating documentary by celebrated nature cinematographer Hugo van Lawick. The film, which is being released to selected markets, chronicles two years in the life of a young male leopard. Shot on location on Africa's Serengeti Plain, the odyssey begins at infancy and continues as the adorable cub learns the essential skills needed for survival from his attentive mother. Along the way we meet many other inhabitants of the Serengeti - including lions, elephants, cheetahs, giraffes, baboons, gazelles and hyenas - and see how these animals interact. As it is with humans, the day comes when the child must go out on his own. In the wild, however, it's the parent who makes the final break. The mother leopard leaves after providing one final meal for her son, who soon realizes that he must make his own kills or starve. His attempts to hunt lead him far from the region that he once called home, but the film ends with the now-adult leopard coming full circle. Acclaimed actor Sir John Gielgud narrates the movie, although his words are intended to voice van Lawick's own thoughts as he recounts his experiences following these animals. It also compares the leopard's development to the raising of his own son, who grew up in the wild where the film-maker and his former wife, famous primatologist Jane Goodall, were working. Gielgud's noble tones give the film an air of dignity, although younger viewers might have appreciated a more humorous account. THE LEOPARD SON may also be too leisurely paced for the rapid-fire attention spans of today's children. But it's a gorgeous effort nonetheless, a true-life adventure that will be especially appealing to nature lovers.

Several scenes where predatory animals hunt for food may be a little too intense for very young children, although they are not unnecessarily gory. You see the hunt and the actual killing of the prey, but the camera doesn't linger when the animals begin feasting on their meal. The inhabitants of the Serengeti are always living, as the narration states, on the knife edge of danger, but there are no unexpected surprises. Viewers will also gain a new appreciation for the beauty of God's creation with THE LEOPARD SON. The movie screen is especially helpful in giving you a larger sense of the immensity and beauty of this magnificent natural habitat and the animals that share it.

Preview Reviewer: Mark Perry
Distributor: Discovery Channel Pictures, 7700 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, MD, 20814-3579

Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: None
Profanity: None
Violence: Several times, moderate (predatory animals kill for food)
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: None
Running Time:
Intended Audience: Age 5 and above

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