Endangered Species

**1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Endangered Species
"Once or twice the CGI at least has the element of surprise on its side but any time we're asked to look for more than a moment at these digitally created animals, it ruins the realism."

When American oil executive Jack (Philip Winchester) and his wife Lauren (Rebecca Romijn) go on safari with their college-age kids Noah (Michael Johnston) and Zoe (director MJ Bassett's daughter Isabel, who also co-wrote the script) and Zoe's boyfriend Billy (Chris Fisher), it's not long before someone mentions the "Big Five" - rhino, lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo. Keen film-spotters might also like to look out for the survival movie Big Five - a fractious group going somewhere they shouldn't, an accident, a wounded member of the party, no phone signal and a long-standing condition that requires now-destroyed medication.

Not much hunting is required as these key elements are laid out quickly after a basic set-up that establishes Jack is a workaholic with problems, who doesn't speak to his kids enough and has issues with the fact that his son is gay, but who decides to break a few rules in the name of family adventure. Things, naturally, do not go well and when the family get themselves in between a mother rhino and her calf, their safari van is rolled, goring dad, smashing mum's insulin and leaving the family with tough choices ahead.

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There's enough solid, if predictable, plotting for a decent B-movie to begin with, but attempts to take the action into more unfamiliar territory are increasingly implausible, while the overall look, despite some lovely African vistas, is hampered at ground level by poor special effects. Once or twice the CGI at least has the element of surprise on its side but any time we're asked to look for more than a moment at these digitally created animals, it ruins the realism, with intercut scenes of an actual leopard, at one point, only further bringing home the uncanny look of the animals elsewhere.

Romijn and Winchester, in particular, make the best of a thankless task, selling their characters as best they can, while Fisher is the best of the younger cast. That the film has a serious point to make about poaching is admirable but it gets caught between being able to revel in its sillier action moments and attempting to set out a life lesson about conservation. The Bassetts obviously abhor poaching but the script gets across itself when it comes to tourism, seeming to want to skewer this sort of privileged trip while failing to realise that it genuinely offers an alternative economy that can help preserve the animals and their habitat. The heart-to-hearts, in general, have the feel of a hippo in mud, wallowing in message while jettisoning the more adventurous elements that the early action promises. Far from big game, it's just too tame.

Reviewed on: 28 Jun 2021
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Endangered Species packshot
A rich American family head for a dream vacation but find themselves in a struggle for survival after their safari vehicle is attacked.

Director: MJ Bassett

Writer: MJ Bassett, Isabel Bassett, Paul Chronnell

Starring: Rebecca Romijn, Philip Winchester, Isabel Bassett, Michael Johnston, Chris Fisher, Jerry O'Connell, Brenda Ngeso, George Glenn Ouma, Aseem Sharma, Pritul Raithatha, Stephen Adogo, Danica Davis, Kirk Fonda, Isaac Naiganya, Matthew Owiti

Year: 2021

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Kenya, US

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