'Leopard Son' Offers Rare Glimpse into Life on Africa's Serengeti Plain Discovery Channel's First Theatrical Release Is Wholesome Family Fare Series: An Elephant Stands Her Ground as a Lioness Perches High in a Tree While Eyeing Her Calf Down below. the Documentary Is Cautious in Its Portrayal of Animal Behavior. 2) STAR: The New Film, by Top Wildlife Cinematographer Hugo Van Lawick, Follows a Leopard Cub's Growth from Infancy to Early Adulthood., HUGO VAN LAMICK/DISCOVERY CHANNEL

Article excerpt

Everyone from concerned parents to the American Medical Association is making a justified fuss over continued violence in movies and television, and the entertainment industry appears to be responding in a sluggish but genuine way.

Violent films already in the production pipeline will keep slouching toward our neighborhood multiplexes, and it's unlikely any known force will be able to stop them. But a recent spate of movies about family-friendly subjects is supplying a counterbalance to the R-rated mayhem, providing alternatives for viewers who enjoy wholesome fare and haven't yet written Hollywood off altogether.

Pictures about animals are currently leading the trend. The picturesque "Fly Away Home," with Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin guiding a flock of geese to their new migratory home, has just opened in theaters. Soon to come is "Microcosmos," a look at the insect world through the lens of microphotography. And now the respected Discovery Channel is throwing its considerable prestige - and financial weight - into the effort, releasing a G-rated documentary called "The Leopard Son" as its first picture made expressly for the large theatrical screen. There's a certain irony to the idea of nature movies taking the lead in family entertainment, since violence is hardly a scarce commodity in the wilderness, where life is often nasty, brutish, and short. Hollywood has a long history of sanitizing the natural realm for civilized consumption, however - Disney documentaries like "The Living Desert" set the standard for this back in the 1950s - and "The Leopard Son" follows squarely in that tradition, erring on the side of caution when it comes to hunting, mating, and other areas of basic biology. This doesn't mean the picture is suitable for every child, since scenes of killing and feeding may be too strong for some, and there's also poignant material about death and loneliness in the animal kingdom. …


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