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LIVING FREE

Review by Chastity Campbell

Stars: Nigel Davenport, Susan Hampshire
Director: Jack Couffer
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: 1.33:1 Standard Fullscreen
Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
Features: See Review
Length: 91 Minutes
Release Date: March 4, 2003

“Welcome to the Serengeti!”

Film ***

Ah, the beautiful sweeping plains of the Serengeti.  Nature at its finest and most brutal!  This is a tale of three cubs that end up, through some unfortunate circumstances, without a mother to guide them and alone in the world. 

Living Free is the sequel to the 1967 hit movie Born Free.  Living Free continues the story of Elsa the lioness and the people who raised her.   George and Joy Adamson return to East Africa and find that their once tame house pet Elsa the lioness has given birth to three cubs.   Unfortunately, Elsa has some type of infection and dies leaving her cubs orphaned.  

Joy and George are heartbroken but are determined to keep their distance from Elsa’s cubs so that they may remain wild and free.   Staying away proves harder than they thought as they watch the cubs go hungry day after day.  With no mother to teach them the hunting skills they need to survive, how will the young ones ever make it?

This movie is told in a documentary style format with dialogue dispersed throughout to add more emotional depth to it.   Footage from Born Free was used quite liberally in the first thirty minutes of the movie to give you a recap of Elsa’s life with the Adamson’s.  While I enjoyed Born Free, I felt like the footage from that movie was overused in this one. 

The acting was a bit better this time around.   Nigel Davenport did a good job fleshing out the emotions of Game Warden George Adamson.  You actually felt like he was struggling with how best to care for these cubs.   Susan Hampshire did a great job bringing Joy’s character so vividly to life.  She was full of passion and determination, which really helped you believe in her dedication to Elsa’s cubs. 

The cubs were the cat’s meow and did a fine job in this movie.   I’ve read many articles that say working with animals on films is never easy and I’m sure three lions was not a walk in the Serengeti.  Yet Director Jack Couffer should be commended for a very nice movie that gives us a chance to see inside the lives of two dedicated individuals as they struggle to help the animals they hold so dear to survive.    

Born Free was a great opportunity for families to sit down together and enjoy a movie without fear of foul language or vulgar images.  Living Free continues that legacy just as Elsa’s cubs continue hers.  

Video **

This DVD was a nice improvement in the video category over its predecessor.   Living Free was presented in a 1.33:1 Standard Fullscreen format for your viewing pleasure.  For the most part the images were crisp and clear with very little dirt or grain visible.  

The only visual problems came when footage from Born Free was used to tell parts of the story pertaining to Elsa.  That footage was very dirty and detracted from the quality of the overall DVD.    

 Audio ***

This DVD’s audio quality was really quite nice.   The dialogue and music beds transferred very well into the Dolby Digital format this disc was presented in.  The only noticeable flaws were during the points where they used footage and sound files from Born Free.  The audio during those scenes tended to sound a bit hollow and flat. 

Features *

The features were disappointing because they basically copied the movie trailers from Born Free onto this disc.   Trailers for Born Free, Living Free, and Fly Away Home were nice, but it was like Déjŕ vu…

Subtitles in English, French, and Japanese are available should you want to add a little culture to your life. 

Summary:

Elsa, Elsa, Elsa…what elsa can I say other than don’t leave this movie ‘lion’ around on store shelves.  Take it home on DVD before the opportunity slips through your paws!