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March of the Meerkats
on 25 October 2009
Narrated by Paul Newman (in one of his last performances), with a story constructed by Alexander McCall Smith and with James Honeyborne's stunning photography, this film owes more to March of the Penguins than Meerkat Manor. To some extent it works, but that largely depends on whether or not you believe meerkats can do no wrong. For me, just sticking the cute little critters up there on screen is enough to keep me entertained. They don't need any story-telling tricks to make them interesting. But this film attempts to contrive a story out of the footage that has been shot, and that in many places diminishes the simple pleasure to be had in watching them.
Kolo is a young meerkat. He fritters away his time, doesn't listen to his elders, and doesn't buckle down to his responsibilities within the family unit. Then one day he gets lost. He encounters various food-chain type dangers, but can he survive to return to his family, having learnt to be wiser and more responsible? Well, this being a story that is highly likely, but in reality perhaps not and therein lies the problem.
It's highly likely that several of the 'actors' playing Kolo got scoffed instead, and for me anyhow that reality is the more interesting side of meerkat life rather than a story that is slighter than you'd expect from a Disney style production or an animated animal tale. Frankly, filming what had really happened and then narrating it would have worked better than a story that I feel won't enthral kids and is a bit trite for adults. That aside, meerkats and their ways are often so human-like they are endlessly fascinating, and so even constraining them with a contrived story can't stop them from being entertaining.