Born In China (2017)

Documentary. Narration by: John Krasinski.

Director: Lu Chuan
Rating: G 
Running Time: 79 Minutes
Release Date: April 21, 2017

Chuan Films, DisneyNature, and Walt Disney Pictures.

Written by: David Fowler, Brian Leith, and Phil Chapman; adapted from the original Chinese language narration, written by Lu Chuan.

OUR REVIEW:

Perhaps a few folks who watch Born In China will find this family-friendly nature documentary boring, but you truly have to be dead inside, or saddled with a blackened heart, to not feel at least something while watching the newest DisneyNature documentary. This time around, we are off to Western and Central China to follow snow leopards, golden snub-nosed monkeys, Tibetan antelopes (Chiru), and the irresistible panda bears who grace the poster and much of the film’s marketing.

Dawa and her cubs in “Born In China” | Walt Disney Pictures

Originally the film was released in China last August as We Were Born in China and featured a Chinese narration track performed by Chinese pop star Zhou Xun, written by director Lu Chuan. Chuan’s film remains intact, but John Krasinski settles in behind the microphone and tells a number of stories which define the DisneyNature formula.

Isolating our focus to one or two animals from each group, we meet Dawa, a female snow leopard, who continually attempts to find food and shelter for her two baby cubs. Elsewhere, male monkey Tao Tao is jealous of his newborn baby sister, finding kinship with a group of misfit golden snub-noses Krasinski dubs “The Lost Boys.” And we settle in on the panda bear mother Ya Ya and her baby cub Mei Mei. We see them bond from infancy to maturation, chomping on bamboo, and living a seemingly wonderful life.

Krasinski is charming and inviting in relaying these stories, making it very easy to latch these names and fabricated stories on to these captivating creatures. The film has breathtaking cinematography, again a common trait with the DisneyNature series, and Chuan’s team of photographers utilize a number of different cameras, techniques, and tricks to bring us right into the heart of lives we otherwise would never see.

Chuan’s film settles into a nice rhythm and pace and mixes a healthy dose of humor and endearing wit, but never panders. Rated G, the film is made for virtually everyone. And yet, the film offers an honest depiction of the challenges these animal families face in making it through each day and season.

Tao Tao in “Born In China” | Walt Disney Pictures

Born In China is not weighed down by deeply informative narration or a melodramatic score, the film goes down smooth and easy. At times, it finds beauty in the simple visuals of a mom and child rolling around in the grass or a mother protecting her cubs as they roam. There’s very little to take issue with, the film very well made and wonderfully presented.

Enjoyable and entertaining, though this is, we have seen this all before. And it is that verse-chorus-verse formula that keeps Born In China from being a top-tier nature film. Sadly, this approach, with this material, stifles the potential for creativity and inventiveness, and that is something of a shame.

Born In China has the feeling of wanting to be more than it ultimately is, and as we welcome the inviting tone and feel of the film, you cannot help but feel, with a little more insight and more ambition, this could have been something better than just really good.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

SHOULD I SEE IT?

YES

  • One of the better DisneyNature entries, Born In China is kind of impossible to dislike.
  • Beautifully shot and presented, Lu Chuan’s film is one of the more impressive films, from a visual standpoint, we will likely see all year.
  • John Krasinski was a great choice as narrator here.

NO

  • There’s not much to complain about, but the film does follow the same pattern and formula as pretty much all the rest of the films in the DisneyNature series. That may prove tedious, even at a scant 79 minutes (with credits).
  • For young children, though the film is Rated G, a couple of short scenes could prove a bit intense and nerve-wracking for little eyes and minds.
  • This is not a film that is going to dig deep and/or provide any kind of factual backdrop for what happens on screen. The stories are written to match the footage, the names are not real obviously. If this bothers you, I guess Born In China is not the movie for you.

Share Your Thoughts!