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"DELHI SAFARI"
(2012) (voices of Tara Strong, Carlos Alazraqui) (PG)

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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A ragtag group of jungle animals sets out for Delhi in hopes of convincing Parliament to stop the deforestation of their home.
PLOT:
Yuvi (voice of TARA STRONG) is a leopard cub who wants to grow up to be just like his dad, Sultan (voice of CARY ELWES), the king of the Indian jungle. But sudden human development is encroaching on their land and when the heavy machinery arrives, Sultan tries to fight back but is shot dead in the process. By default, Yuvi's mother, Begum (voice of VANESSA WILLIAMS), becomes the new leader and encourages all animals to leave the jungle for the safety of other environs.

Bajrangi (voice of CARLOS ALAZRAQUI), an angry monkey, says they should stay and fight, and thinks he and his small army of two other monkeys, Bharela (voice of ROGER CRAIG SMITH) and Marela (voice of ROGER CRAIG SMITH), can handle the men. Others, such as Bagga the bear (voice of BRAD GARRETT) think that's foolhardy at best. But Yuvi comes up with another idea once he hears Pigeon (voice of CHRISTOPHER LLOYD) state there is one animal who speaks the language of man.

And that is Alex the parrot (voice of TOM KENNY) who lives in the city in a cage with his human owner, happily ensconced in the creature comforts of human life. Realizing he could tell the developers that deforestation is destroying their home, Yuvi, Begum and Bagga set out to get Alex's help, although Bajrangi isn't convinced that's the best solution.

Nonetheless, they eventually get Alex to join them and they all then set out on a long road trip to Delhi where they hope to convince Parliament to put an end to the destruction of their homeland.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
The old saying goes that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and films are not immune from that. If something doesn't look or sound right at the start, it can certainly affect one's impression of what's to follow for the next 90, 120 or more minutes. Of course, if it's a technical or hardware issue with the presentation, that can usually be forgiven for the rest of the duration. But if it's a problem with some aspect of the production itself, that can be a very different matter.

The latter is certainly the case with "Delhi Safari," yet another in a long line of animated films featuring talking animals. Produced by India's Krayon Pictures and featuring Indian vocal talent, the film has been retrofitted for its U.S. release, with the new vocal cast including the likes of Vanessa Williams, Brad Garrett and Cary Elwes. Thankfully, they have nothing to do with the first impression problem. Instead, it's the state of the computer animation that leaves a lot to be desired.

Looking like a rough stand-in for what would otherwise later become the polished, finished product, the clunky and less refined imagery wouldn't have cut it in any major Hollywood release 10 years ago, let alone today. Accordingly, one immediately gets the feeling that this is going to be less than a stellar experience, and certainly makes one ponder that if the animation is so second-rate, how will the rest of the effort be?

Of course, films don't have to be pretty to be effective, and I was willing -- if somewhat begrudgingly -- to give the flick a chance and try to look beyond the superficial aspects. Sadly, and despite containing a good message for kids (and adults), most of the rest of the film is just as clunky as the assembly of all of the zeroes and ones up on the screen. Filled with mostly unappealing and often lame songs/musical montages, questionable content for kids (one character opening plotting to kill another, not to mention some sexual content that has nothing to do with the plot) and scenes and elements lifted from other (and better) animated films, this one simply doesn't work.

As helmed by director Nikhil Advani -- who works from a script by scribes Nikhil Advani, Girish Dhamija and Suresh Nair -- the story starts off with a "Lion King" sort of pivotal moment where the king of the jungle (there are no lions in India, so a leopard had to take the spot - get it?) dies in front of his wife and their young son while trying to protect them from human encroachment on their lands. Rather than having his uncle run him off only to have him end up with an assortment of whacky animal friends, the cub decides they should do something about this and thus set off for the Indian Parliament in Delhi…accompanied by some whacky animal friends. And just to make sure the "Lion King" connection is concrete, some menacing hyenas are thrown in for good measure, along with the fatherly spirit showing up from time to time.

Thankfully, there are no "Circle of Life," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" or "Hakuna Matata" rip-off songs, although they'd probably still be better than what's offered (quite frankly, I can't recall a single one from this film and it's only been two days since I watched it). The vocal work is fine if similarly unremarkable, but the lame dialogue and weak story don't do them any favors in helping make their characters more interesting, entertaining and/or emotionally involving.

While the film -- in theory -- could have been an intriguing first impression for kids regarding human encroachment on jungles and other areas containing current or potentially future endangered species, the way this effort comes off likely won't do much for them or anyone. But at least it has the requisite fart jokes, other crude humor, and hits to the crotch to keep the young ones entertained. Going to the zoo, watching Animal Planet or reading National Geographic will be more enlightening than this "Delhi Safari." It rates as a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed December 4, 2012 / Posted December 7, 2012


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