Born in China Movie Review
Disgusting. Deplorable. Insulting. Born in China is none of those things, but how does one review a Disneynature documentary without resorting to the obvious and cliché adjectives (beautiful, adorable, entertaining)?
The 71-minute documentary, narrated by Jon Krasinski as if he’s reading a storybook to small children (which, essentially, he is), follows a bunch of cute or interesting animals over the course of one year, some of them facing hardship, some of them content just being pandas.
As expected from Disneynature’s annual series, Born in China looks amazing, with beautiful and intimate shots of the animal subjects and gorgeous panoramic views that adequately capture the range of geographies that can be found throughout the nation.
But, let’s be real: the reason why you’re going to go see this movie is pandas. And maybe some cute, sad-looking monkeys.
In that regard, Born in China delivers. Every second of footage featuring the baby panda is delightful (seriously, if you sit there, staring, unamused as a puddle of black-and-white fur and fat rolls harmlessly down a hillside after being struck by a leaf, you just might be a sociopath), and the interactions between the golden snub-nosed monkeys are highly entertaining. Quoting my wife as she watched this movie:
Pandas and monkeys aren’t the film’s only focus, however. The footage of the snow leopards is arguably the most impressive, albeit not nearly as adorable as some of the other animals. A species of antelopes, notably absent from all marketing and educational materials related to the movie, provide some quite footage of calves learning to walk for the first time. The red-crowned cranes serve as good bookends and thankfully aren’t given a lot of screen time.
While it’s nice to see a mix of animals--and that mix makes Born in China a terrific movie to screen in elementary school classrooms--the mix does naturally affect the film’s narrative, and not in a good way. The film could have easily focused on just the pandas and monkeys and been set; with so many other animals, Born in China doesn’t feel as cohesive as some of the other Disneynature documentaries.
All in all, Born in China is an enjoyable, adorable and entertaining documentary the entire family can enjoy (warning: there is one rather depressing segment). It isn’t the best nature documentary you’ll ever see, but it hits most of the right notes. More of those disgusting and deplorable giant panda cubs, please!
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.