An unscrupulous real estate entrepreneur is determined to develop and turn a lush, vibrant jungle park, teaming with wildlife, into a sprawl of new urban housing. The animals of this forest are not strong enough to stop the machines from destroying their home but they are smart enough to figure a way to stop man’s incursion. This means, though, that they must find a mouthpiece to talk to the humans then leave their Mumbai sanctuary to make the “Delhi Safari”
Bollywood joins the ranks of international anime with this derivative but charming, good hearted and environmentally conscious little film that borrows liberally from such A-list animation films as “The Lion King” and “The Jungle Book.” “FernGully: The Last Rainforest,” “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” also came to mind while watching “Delhi Safari.”
The story is a simple, oft-told cautionary tale about man’s foray into nature and his penchant to destroy that which should be held precious. The environmentalists opposing this encroachment are a leopard cub named Yuvi (Tara Strong), his mom, Begum (Vanessa Williams), a bear, Bagga (Brad Garrett), a pistol packing monkey, Bajrangi (Carlos Alazraqui), and a talking parrot named Alex (Tom Kenny).
“Delhi Safari” begins in the idyllic world of the jungle near Mumbai, India as the animals live in peace and harmony with each other. Until, that is, a monstrous machine of destruction, designed to lay waste the land, bursts upon the scene and threatens young Yuvi’s life. His protective dad, Sultan (Cary Elwes), leaps in into the path of the monster but is shot dead by a faceless hunter. The animals of the jungle come to wit’s end and decide drastic actions are necessary. Pigeon (Christopher Lloyd) happens to know a guy who speaks fluent human and the above-mentioned band go into the city to get Alex’s help. They decide to plea their case to the government officials making the decisions and they begin their long trek to Delhi.
The “Save the Environment” and “Share the World” themes of “Delhi Safari” will keep the adults involved in this nice story that is chock full of snappy, nature-friendly songs that will delight the kids. Though it is a derivative of other similar animation, the message of “all species can live together” and how it is delivered are a big plus. It takes a little while to get into its groove but, when it does, it sticks with it and delivers its goods. Animation is inferior to what we are used to but the film’s heart is in a good place. I give it a B-.
When his father is killed by the driver of an encroaching bull dozer, Yuvi (voice of Tara Strong, "The Powerpuff Girls") gathers the support of other animals, including Bollywood's own Alex the Parrot (voice of Tom Kenny, "Spongebob Squarepants"), to go convince the humans to coexist in peace. It's Yuvi's own "Delhi Safari."
Bollywood writer/director Nikhil Advani is a fan of 3D and so he went the animation route in order to use the medium. Unfortunately, Advani should have put more focus on the animation itself, as U.S. audiences, at least, are bound to find the animation here subpar for a theatrical release. Although the animals attain character via homage to many animations that have come before them and vocal performances from the likes of Jane Lynch and Jason Alexander (as a couple of flamingos), their rendering lacks textural detail and mouth movements are rudimentary at best.
The story begins with a heavy hand, but picks up steam as it goes along, especially as you begin to notice the various homages to other feature cartoons (and Advani does indeed make them feel more homage than ripoff), "The Wizard of Oz," and even Jim Henson. Bagga, a bear voiced by 'Everybody Loves Raymond's' Brad Garrett, has the body of "The Jungle Book's" Baloo with a Yogi Bear hat by way of Indiana Jones. There are songs and dances to keep the kiddies going, a couple of good visual gags for adults and the environmental message of many an animation. "Delhi Safari" is getting an awards push, and while the film itself isn't bad, its theatrical prospects, let alone Academy Awards hopes, look dim.
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