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You have to give Disney Inc. points for chutzpah. The advertising for this implies that it is a new, original Disney production, a return to the series of acclaimed nature documentaries the company made in the 1950s.

Actually, Earth is re-edited footage from the 2006 BBC series Planet Earth, which has already been broadcast in the US on the Discovery Channel. The directors claim that the feature was commissioned at the same time as the series, so both are derived from the same footage, and the theatrical version contains shots that it was felt would work better on the big screen. I point this out because, while I haven’t seen the series, I know a lot of people have and may not be terribly happy to pay for a movie ticket only to get a wallop of déjà vu. I did see a film a few years ago called An Arctic Tale, from which I would swear this re-uses footage of polar bear and walrus families. (If you can tell one walrus from another, you have a more discerning eye than I.) Pedigree aside, Earth contains a fair share of spectacular nature photography mixed with a lot of anthropomorphized animal scenes, strung together with no particular focus. It’s less gruesome than what you may be used to from cable, with little that might disturb sensitive toddlers. Any enjoyment you get out of the experience, though, will depend on your tolerance for a pompous narration ripe with lines like “This is the circle of life that most of us in our urbanized lives have lost touch with,” delivered by a particularly unrestrained James Earl Jones. (No one intones like James Earl Jones.) Worse is the relentless musical score: The violins weep, the tympani thunder, the woodwinds keen, the French horns bellow victory—it’s like a primer in orchestral clichés. The good news is that the next film in this series, to be released in the US by Disney on Earth Day 2010, will be Oceans, by the French producer Jacques Perrin, who in the past decade reinvented the genre with such visionary epics as Microcosmos, Winged Migration, and Genesis. The bad news is that, unlike those films, it will probably be put though the same Disnification mill.

m. faust

Watch the trailer for Earth

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