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MOVIE REVIEW

Born to Be Wild 3D

Wildlife on its best (and cutest) behavior

Mary Galdikas has spent decades in Indonesia studying orangutan society. Mary Galdikas has spent decades in Indonesia studying orangutan society. (Drew Fellman/Warner Bros. Pictures)
By Janice Page
Globe Staff / April 8, 2011

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No need to get your motor running. Unlike Steppenwolf’s classic-rock anthem, the “Born to Be Wild’’ that hits select IMAX theaters today is not looking for adventure. It’s looking for milk money.

Handsomely packaged by Warner Bros., “Born to Be Wild 3D’’ is a G-rated nature documentary so cuddly and soft it’s practically a sleeping bag. The unpaid stars are a collection of orphaned wildlife — baby orphaned wildlife — with big, wet eyes and endless appetites for nuzzling. They eat, they bathe, they play. Our hearts melt. So much so that an honest marketer might have just gone ahead and titled the film “Awwwww.’’

If you have never heard of the good work being done in Borneo, by Biruté Mary Galdikas, or in Kenya, by Daphne Sheldrick, this movie will shed some much-deserved light. Galdikas is a primatologist whose nurturing of at-risk orangutans is something to see, and her orange-haired wards display more charm and better comic timing than most Hollywood actors. Sheldrick rescues young elephants orphaned largely by poachers. You need to witness the efforts of her dedicated team, if only to appreciate the insane amount of bottled milk that can be guzzled by these animals in just a few seconds.

Unfortunately, you won’t learn anything much deeper from this film. In 40 minutes, director David Lickley and writer Drew Fellman deliver a comfortable, arm-chair tour of their complicated landscapes, paying more attention to the technical aspects of shooting — a lighter, quieter IMAX camera was developed to expand the boundaries of cinematography — than they do to explaining the science, sociology, and politics of what is at stake. Viewers over the age of 5 are likely to leave with far more questions than answers — not necessarily a bad thing, but avoidable with more informative voice-overs (Morgan Freeman might as well be narrating a cartoon) and fewer shots of animals mugging for the camera.

Ironically, “Born to Be Wild’’ banks solely on its tameness to captivate and inspire, aided by an upbeat, sometimes incongruous soundtrack (“Jambalaya,’’ really?) that worries not about distinguishing the jungle from the jungle gym. If honey catches the most flies, then contributions should pour in to the charitable foundations run by Galdikas and Sheldrick. And that’s nothing to swat at.

Janice Page can be reached at jpage@globe.com.

BORN TO BE WILD 3D

Directed by: David Lickley

Written by: Drew Fellman

Narrated by: Morgan Freeman

At: IMAX Aquarium, Methuen, Randolph, Jordan’s Furniture Reading and Natick

Running time: 40 minutes

Rated: G (at-risk orphaned animals, aggressive

milk guzzling)

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