Showtime has produced some terrific films for the channel over the years that they've been in existence. Unfortunately, this 1997 effort is not exactly one of their finest moments. In fact, early in the picture during a scene of two children bickering, I knew I was in for a spot of trouble. "Running Wild" is a made-for-TV melodrama wrapped up in some absolutely gorgeous scenery.
Gregory Harrison plays Major Matt Robinson, a father who has lost his wife and finds himself dragging his obnoxious two children into Zimbabwe. The reason for his journey is that he's just been given a comission by the United Nations to study the local wildlife and protect the elephants from local poachers. Daughter Angela thinks that she's well beyond her 14 years, but Nicholas actually boasts a positive outlook on the adventure. From the early moments of the story, we're already far ahead of the picture. It's obvious that Angela will change her irritating ways and that her caring for an injured animal (in this case, a baby elephant) will be the main reason for her newfound nature.
Throw in a new love interest for the father and a British gentleman who actually, in one of the film's few twists, turns out to be the villian and you've got the complete idea. The daughter's almost magical change from wildly annoying to sweet and good natured is a bit abrupt and the acting from the entire cast is simply average. None of the characters are really that well-defined and the screenplay really doesn't offer the actors anything but cliched dialogue. As a quick, G-rated picture, I'd think that both adult and child audiences will likely find the plot predictable and the story slow-moving. The film even resorts to kids-in-peril situations.
Although the film's PG-13 rating might keep it from the youngest audiences, Fox's new video release "To Walk With Lions" is a much more powerful, much better performed (with a marvelous Richard Harris performance) film that provides an interesting, based-on-real-life story of animal conservation.
VIDEO: "Running Wild" is presented in the film's original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. As with most Showtime DVD releases, the image quality is certainly not groundbreaking, but pleasant, with only a few minor flaws. Sharpness and detail are both fine - the picture looks a little soft, and darker scenes tend to look undefined, but overall, the presentation looks at least crisp. A few minor flaws did pop up during the film - a couple of slight traces of pixelation were visible, but that was about it. I noticed no instances of print flaws or edge enhancement. Colors appeared bright, bold and problem-free. A nice presentation with no major concerns.
SOUND: "Running Wild" is presented in Dolby 2.0. The track is not terribly ambitious. The majority of the film's audio is either devoted to the music or the dialogue, with little attention to the ambient sounds that would very likely be present in the area. Audio quality is fine, though, as the music sounded rich and crisp, while dialogue came through clearly.
MENUS:: An enjoyable main menu that offers clips from the movie.
EXTRAS:: Trailers for 7 other Showtime titles.
Final Thoughts: "Running Wild" was predictable, slow and offered little in character development. Showtime's DVD provides fine audio/video quality, but little in the way of supplements. If you're interested in a tale of wildlife conservation, seek out "To Walk With Lions" (out 9/4/01) instead.