With Born in China, Disneynature continues its tradition of ascribing human traits and emotions to wild creatures in ways that flirt with artificiality. Yet the documentary does manage to elicit a viewer’s awe and touch the heart.
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Born in China” doesn’t flip the script in any significant way, but while the storytelling here has significant weaknesses, it’s hard to stay mad at any movie that offers so many close-ups of an insanely adorable baby panda.
If all of the overemoting can be ignored, Born in China delivers gorgeous visuals in its close-up perspective on some of the world’s rarest wildlife species, as well as the imposing habitats they call home.
The message stays firmly on spiritual questions about the circle of life, but doesn't educate or leave the audience with a call to action about how to personally act to protect these animals, and that feels like a missed opportunity.
The narrative, read by John Krasinski, is kid-friendly in a cloying sort of way, and unpleasant realities like China’s pollution are not mentioned. So as an introduction for children to exotic creatures in picturesque landscapes, the movie is harmless enough.
To the extent that Born in China is, by its very existence, a minor act of cross-cultural diplomacy, its most progressive effect is to unveil the majestic diversity of Chinese landscapes.
All in all, it’s an eye-opening offering from DisneyNature, even with the Chinese pandering, Chinese spin and image-burnishing we can sense was part of the package.
The film is neatly organized around not only the changing of the seasons, but a Disney-branded "circle of life" ethos.
Essentially a feature-length version of the cute animal videos that proliferate on social media, Born In China is a feast for the eyes while also being an irritant for the ears.
Monkeys end up supplying the movie’s real drama. While parentally overlooked mischief-maker Tao Tao gets up to the requisite, well, monkey business, he’s also witness to a stunning snatch-and-fly attack by an opportunistic goshawk. It might not be nature on demand, but it’s some scene.