[Screen It]


(2014) (Documentary) (G)

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Documentary: A look at the various species of lemurs on Madagascar.
As narrated by Morgan Freeman, the short film (around 40 minutes) takes a look at the origin of lemurs on Madagascar, the various varieties of them that inhabit the island, the effects of human farming and such on the primates, and the work of several primatologists in protecting the animals and their dwindling natural habitat.
OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
While Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo were the stars of the animated comedy "Madagascar" and its two sequels, some of the supporting critters occasionally stole the show right out from under them. That included a chimp and his silent friend, a group of resourceful and always plotting penguins, and an array of lemurs led by the flamboyant King Julien XII (voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen) and advised by his calmer, right-hand primate, Maurice.

The fact that King Julien lead a big dance number to Reel to Real's "I Like to Move It" endeared the lemurs to many a kid who thus might be looking forward to the new IMAX documentary, "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar." Probably to the relief of a many a parent, the catchy but quick to irritate song is nowhere to be heard, although new versions of "Be My Baby" and "I Will Survive" (the latter sans the driving disco beat) are present.

As is the gravely, majestic and reassuring voice of go-to documentary narrator Morgan Freeman. He shares some of that vocal insight duty with real-life primatologist Patricia Wright. She's also seen on the screen doing her life-long work studying the primates and particularly focusing on the rare and apparently endangered bamboo lemur.

I'll admit that I was oblivious to the various varieties of lemurs in existence, having only seen the more commonly viewed ring-tailed ones at various zoos. I was aware that Madagascar is their only natural home, but was unaware (although not surprised considering our species' track record in such regards) that humans have left them with only around ten percent of their habitat.

Despite the literal scorched earth policy responsible for that (where locals are burning land for farming and grazing), the film features amazing and beautiful to behold footage (shown in all of its IMAX glory) of the immense island, its alternating landscape, plant-life and, of course, the lemurs doing their thing. Beyond a brief bit where some music is thrown in to highlight their "dancing" from one spot to another, it's refreshing that writer Drew Fellman and director David Douglas opted not to anthropomorphize the primates like many a nature documentary has done in the past.

I understand the logic behind doing so (to engage younger kids and thus get them more involved in the info and message being delivered), but such efforts usually ring false since such critters (short of the ape family) more than likely aren't having such human thoughts and emotions going through their noggins. Here, we just see the lemurs doing their thing and that's enough, especially with Freeman and Wright filling us in with just enough knowledge to understand the situation.

Although the film might not impart as much information as you could likely see on a similar documentary on the National Geographic Channel, Animal Planet and the likes of other such channels, it is something to behold on the big screen. And its short duration means it never overstays its welcome, while the film's message of conservation never gets preachy or long-winded. I'd suggest you "move it, move it" to the theater and catch this entertaining and enlightening film. "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed April 3, 2014 / Posted April 4, 2014

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