DelhiSafaricoverGrade:  C-
Entire family:  No
2012, 97 min., Color
Rated PG for violence, menacing action, rude humor, suggestive content, and thematic elements
Arc Entertainment
Aspect ratio:  Letterboxed 1.78:1
Featured audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus features:  None
Trailer

Here’s another one that bears the “Family Approved” Dove symbol, and PETA is reportedly behind it as well. But I can’t recommend Delhi Safari, and my children were even harder on it.

I was excited to watch this film because it’s the first animated feature from India that I’ve run across. Curiously, though, writer-director Nikhil Advani hardly showcases India. A single parrot sings a Bollywood song, the countryside is either generic or it resembles the backdrop of The Lion King, and few details ring true.

At what train station in India, for example, would we find only a handful of passengers waiting for a train? And is there a train in India that doesn’t have people riding on the roofs of cars or hanging out the windows? Even shots of Delhi are remarkably open and airy, with only enough cars and people to populate the frame. To me, it felt like a wasted opportunity. My wife, who’s half Indian, felt the same. We would have preferred Indian actors to the usual American voice actor suspects: Christopher Lloyd, Cary Elwes, Jane Lynch, Brad Garrett, Vanessa Williams, and Jason Alexander. 

The plot of Delhi Safari seems geared toward a young audience. After a leopard is killed by land developers, a group of animals goes to Delhi with a parrot who speaks human in order to tell whoever will listen that their environment needs to be saved. Along the way there’s infighting, mostly, but that’s the trajectory. The most endearing character is actually that parrot, who’s cute enough to cuddle.

DelhiSafariscreenBut other aspects of Delhi Safari hardly seem appropriate for young viewers. It features a pugnacious monkey who keeps pulling a gun on other animals and at one point whips out a pocketknife with the intention of slitting another animal’s throat (we’re never told how a monkey comes to have weapons), and a bear tries to choke that annoying monkey to death. As in The Lion King, a little cub has to watch his father killed (and again, in flashback), and there’s even a scene where that little leopard cub (Tara Strong) enters a landscape much like the menacing one hyenas inhabited in the Disney movie, with so many similarities you begin to wonder how they got away with it. At one point the rogue monkey is shown from the waist up urinating in a field, and an Indian is shown wearing a t-shirt that says “FCUK” (for French Connection UK).

The music is also aimed at younger children, but one song seems the counterpart to “Circle of Life,” while another one involving a bear that inexplicably wears a Smoky-style hat sings a song that tries to replicate the success of “Bare Necessities.” For me, it was just too derivative, while the kids didn’t respond well to the partial animation—with the dialogue not matching the mouth movements very well. This 2012 film didn’t hold their interest at all, and my wife and I kept looking at each other wondering how it earned a Dove symbol.

Delhi Safari was the first Indian 3D animated film, and quality of animation is uneven—sometimes as good as any CGI drawing, and other times so clumsy that objects held in creatures’ hands look disconnected. But there’s promise here, and one hopes that Advani tries his hand at animation again, but with a fresher concept and a stronger plot.

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