STUDIO: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 100 Minutes
Extended scenes

The Pitch

in reverse! And, instead of talking, the animals make this weird,
nancy-ass squeaking sound."

The Humans

Michaeletos, Eamonn Walker, Campbell Scott

The Nutshell

Young Xan
(Michaeletos) and his father (Scott) discover an orphaned cheetah on the side
of the road one night. As you might do when you encounter vicious, feral
animals, they decide to take him home to their farm and raise him as a pet. Duma
grows into adulthood, and Xan’s father decides that a full-grown cheetah
probably ought to be returned to the wild. Unfortunately, he comes down with a
mild case of death before they can do so.

that Duma can’t adapt to a new life in the city, and looking for a way to mourn
his father, Xan sets out with his cheetah pal to the distant mountains, where
Duma might discover the life he ought to have had.

"I could disembowel everything you love."

The Package

This disc
is very light on the bonuses. You get a couple short, extended scenes. Most of
what was excised was unnecessary dialogue. You also get a theatrical trailer.

technical specs are nice and clean. The 5.1 Dolby surround is filled with the
ambient noises of the South African desert, and the beautiful landscape
cinematography is presented clearly.

The Lowdown

Do you
know how many stories we’d lose if children weren’t goddamn idiots? Think about
it. The Harry Potter stories would be a good deal shorter if the
characters would bother to consult with adults. My Side of the Mountain
would have been about two sentences long. David Copperfield, well — in Dickens
land, everyone’s a genteel idiot, so I guess that doesn’t count.

Strike up
another story that would be very, very short if the main character weren’t a
blistering lackwit. I mean that in the most jovial sense possible. Young Xan is
obviously a resourceful type of guy — I’d like to see the story about the
popular jock kid stranded in the desert and forced to survive — but his whole
plan of "set out with only my Cheetah at my side for a range of mountain
hundreds of miles away" was missing a few key logistical details (water,
food, ray gun) that serve to frustrate an audience with the artificiality of
plot. It’s like the kid is being shoved onstage by a disembodied Narrator.

Once Xan
gets into the wilderness, however, things pick up considerably, and there’s a
lot to love. Eamonn Walker’s performance as a drifter of ambiguous morals is a
fine source of both conflict with and sympathy for the young man and his cat. There’s
also Xan’s undeniable creativity when it comes to problem solving. When I was a
kid, I always thought I’d excel in situations like his — I was undoubtedly
wrong, but the situations Xan confronts are sure to inspire admiration in a
youngster, and something like envy in the older audience.

"I told you not to use the oils. They take too long to dry."

Over the
course of the second act it’s not hard to get caught up in the story of Duma,
but there is something hovering overhead that’s worth mentioning. These stories
about children and their animal friends (this director always made Fly
Away Home
and the recent Black Stallion) carry an implicit
condemnation of human society. The child protagonists are only able to learn
their big life lessons through interaction with nature. By elevating the
natural experience to somewhere around the religious level, the stories seem to
say there are lessons you can not learn unless you sleep in the dirt.

of the failed mother/son relationship that exists in the frame, this slight
agenda is even more explicit in Duma than its peers. I don’t have a
problem with agendas, disingenuous though they might be, but in this case the
thread of nature-worship gets left hanging loose at the awkward conclusion. The
first act sets up a mild tension between the city and the wilderness, and that
conflict is left unresolved. The agenda gets a little blurry, and it’s not
obliqueness to prove a point — it’s just improperly placed.

that misstep, the third act also leaps headlong backwards and tries to tie
certain experiences back into themes that feel as if they ought to have been
present throughout the whole film, but weren’t.

Where Duma
excels is in the simple, small relationships: those between Xan and Duma, Xan
Walker‘s drifter. During the journey in
the wilderness, it’s a thrilling and heartwarming film, and a pretty picture.
It’s too bad the first and third acts don’t create an elegant frame.

At some point, you’ve ought to say, "I’m a leper, and I’m okay with that."

7.4 out of 10