Whispers: An Elephant's Tale

Real-life nature photography, rather than the usual trained animal performances, makes up the bulk of this debut fiction film from Dereck and Beverly Joubert, the husband-and-wife deans of wildlife documentary. Yet, despite some remarkable footage, this children's tale of an anthropomorphized young pachyderm searching for his mother contains less originality...read more

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Reviewed by Frank Lovece
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Real-life nature photography, rather than the usual trained animal performances, makes up the bulk of this debut fiction film from Dereck and Beverly Joubert, the husband-and-wife deans of wildlife documentary. Yet, despite some remarkable footage, this children's

tale of an anthropomorphized young pachyderm searching for his mother contains less originality and emotion than any Babar story. On the African plains (Botswana's Chobe National Park, where the Jouberts live), the infant elephant Whispers (voiced by Debi Derryberry) is born free to elephant cow

Gentle Heart (Anne Archer). Life is idyllic, until poachers scatter the herd and Whispers, running for his little life, becomes lost. He hooks up with the cranky Groove (Angela Bassett), who's left her own herd to spite her regimented sister, herd leader Half Tusk (Joanna Lumley). Grouchy Groove

and plucky Whispers &#151 a chatterbox who does impressions of hyenas and monkeys &#151 encounter fire, drought, big-talking macho bull elephants and more poachers as they inevitably warm to each other. Be forewarned: One pachyderm does go to that great elephant's graveyard in the sky, but the

scene is so drawn out, it's about as moving as Bette Davis succumbing nobly in bed to Old Movie Disease. The film does pack its trunk with admirably unflinching footage &#151 from dung and birthing bloodstains to what the filmmakers say is unprecedented footage of lions attacking an elephant &#151

that manages to be both honest and revealing without being gory or graphic. Yet the story's a bore; its arrhythmic stutter of humor and drama, tension and calm never builds into any coherent emotional arc. And the hackneyed humor that passes for witty kiddicisms elicited not a chuckle at a

child-filled screening. The best thing is the wildlife footage, which you can see more conveniently on a National Geographic special and more spectacularly in an IMAX nature film.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: G
  • Review: Real-life nature photography, rather than the usual trained animal performances, makes up the bulk of this debut fiction film from Dereck and Beverly Joubert, the husband-and-wife deans of wildlife documentary. Yet, despite some remarkable footage, this ch… (more)

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