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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Shut Up and Watch the Movie...

Towards the end of my college years, my campus was offered a free screening of the Mel Gibson movie Apocalypto.  Now, it's hard for me not to enjoy any movie that features a tapir in its opening scene (a distinction, I believe, that this movie shares only with 2001: A Space Odyssey); in addition to the plot (which was, to be fair, rather formulaic), I did enjoy all of the casual background shots of wildlife.  There was one animal cameo, however, which slightly irked me.

Warning: Graphic Hunting Scene

A cattle egret.  It really was a blink-and-you-miss-it, but it was there, nonetheless.  And cattle egrets, as any true bird-nerd will tell you, did not appear in the New World until well after the Mayan period depicted in the movie.  When I commented on this to my fellow viewers, they all had one reply.  Shut up and watch the damn movie... so I did.

I've had friend who wanted to be/are now doctors, or cops, or lawyers, and they've ruined most TV for me. Whenever we'd watch House, or Grey's Anatomy, or Law & Order, or whatever, they were quick to point out the illogical moments, falsehoods, or ridiculous caricatures of their workplace depicted on the screen.  So it seems a little unfair that I can't point out a few animal inaccurices now and then.

Those giant anteaters in The Lion King - exactly how did they get to Africa?  Still not as ridiculous as the premise of Anaconda 2 featuring the titular monster snakes in Borneo... on the exact opposite side of the globe from the Neotropics, where anacondas actually live.  Would it have killed you to set the movie in Venezuela or something?  How many times have Hollywood producers used corn snakes (or, in the case of Raiders of the Lost Ark, legless lizards) as stand-ins for deadly snakes?  And that stupid Zookeeper movie with Kevin James?  They lost me five minutes in, when they had a porcupine shoot quills at people.

Take the live-action version of George of the Jungle, for instance.  Set in "The Heart of Africa"... but featuring South American toucans and Asian elephants and oh, wait, is that an Australian kookaburra I hear in the background?  What you might have heard, had you been watching that movie with me.

Me: That's not an African elephant, it's an Asian
Friend: What's the difference?
Me: Asian elephants have smaller ears, and the shape of the head is different, and the shape of the back is different, and...
Friend: It was a rhetorical question, idiot.

All of this petty griping fades away when there is an obscure animal cameo.  When I saw the latest Disney cartoon Tarzan movie, the fact that someone took the time to research and incorporate a fleeting glimpse of a saddle-billed stork in the background just made my day.


To my surprise and delight, the new live action/CGI version of Disney's The Jungle Book was spectacularly accurate... I mean, if you excuse the fact that the animals are all eight times as big as they would be in real life... and speak English.  Okay, so Baloo looks more like a grizzly than a sloth bear, and orangutans (which, to be fair, they never say King Louie is...) don't occur in India, perhaps making Christopher Walken the first actor in human history to say the word "Gigantopithecus" in a blockbuster movie.  But the detail of the other animals!  Great Indian hornbills and hoopoes and bee-eaters!  Pygmy hog!  Nilgai and blackbuck!  And oh my goodness, the pangolin cameo almost made me teary-eyed it was so adorable ("You have never been a more endangered species than you are right now...").

So maybe Hollywood can make an accurate animal movie now and then.  I'll just hold my breath and see how the Tarzan movie later this year comes out... might be that those saddle-bills get a live action appearance as well.

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