Film Review: Island of Lemurs: Madagascar

Scientists fight to preserve lemur habitats on Madagascar in this kid-friendly IMAX documentary.

The oldest members of the primate family, lemurs could be the cutest as well. Island of Lemurs: Madagascar showcases several families and species while raising some basic environmental concerns. School kids will have more fun watching this than their parents.
With Morgan Freeman providing the narration, Island of Lemurs explains that lemurs date to the dinosaur era, and became "nature's greatest explorers" when they made their way from Africa to Madagascar—the only location where they can now be found.

By the time humans reached Madagascar some 2,000 years ago, lemurs had evolved into hundreds of species. But in searching for grazing land, humans have destroyed 90 percent of the island's forests, endangering the surviving lemurs.

Scientists like Dr. Patricia C. Wright, a former social worker and primatologist who has devoted decades to lemurs, have brought attention to the island's environmental problems. Wright was instrumental in the formation of the Ranomafana National Park, home to some 15 species of lemur.

The lemurs look cuddly and adorable— like meerkats who can climb—but seem a bit limited on the personality side. Director and cinematographer David Douglas has to doctor some footage to make it seem as if the lemurs are "dancing," evoking the dubious science of the old Disney nature documentaries from the 1950s.

Along with lemurs jumping, resting, eating and playing, Douglas offers stunning vistas of the Madagascar countryside and several scenes of Dr. Wright admiring her subjects. "Would they fall in love?" she asks in an unfortunately pallid voiceover.

Parents might disagree when Freeman opines, "The best stories in Nature are the ones that never end," especially when sitting through the movie's Malagasy versions of "Be My Baby" and "I Will Survive." Island of Lemurs gives out just enough information to justify school trips, but not enough to merit return visits.

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