Review for Khumba:A Zebra's Tale
Khumba: A Zebra's Tale tells the story of Khuma, a zebra born with only half his body striped. His mother loves him all the same, but the herd see this as a bad sign. As the land becomes engulfed with a deadly drought, they soon lay the blame on Khumba and so he leaves to look for water.
While on the way he is joined by a Wildebeest Mama V and Ostrich Bradley who want to help him on his quest. But the leopard Phango, who has been terrorising the herd for may years is hot on their trail wanting to kill Khumba for what he feels is his legacy.
Khumba so wants to be The Lion King it actually seems a little sad. There's a moment where Khumba's dad Seko, played by Laurence Fishburne stands on a rock that locks exactly like Pride Rock from The Lion King. I waited for the parody or a joke, but no it was just a coincidence. A song by Bradley, played by Richard E. Grant was again so desperately trying to be this films' Hakuna Matata that again I was waiting for the tongue in cheek joke, or wink at the audience, but no not to be.
The problem I have with this film is that it just feels too weak for a theatrical release. If this had been pruned down to an hour or two half hours it could have been a good TV show. Instead it feels like we spend far too much time with nothing happening. Khumba goes off in search of water, encounters some characters who become his friend, faces his fear, finds water, the end. This did not need to last nearly an hour and a half to tell this story.
Stylistically, the animation is perfect and with a different film I might be saying something else. The characters are all fun and realistic, but nothing that we haven't seen before. However, while they are nice, they all feel like they have been pillaged from other films: Leopard Phango looks like Diego from Ice Age, Khumba like Marty from Madagascar, Skalk the wild dog like the hyenas from Lion King and so on.
Voicework by everyone is competent with Fishburne doing his best Mufasa impression, Steve Buscemi as Skalk is funny, but sorely underused as is Catherine Tate as Nora a crazy sheep. The jewel in the crown for this film is the selection of Liam Neeson as Phango. I kept expecting them to do a Taken parody, but by this time I realised that this is a film that doesn't go for the obvious jokes, or any jokes for that matter.
Music by Bruce Retief is fine, he does capture the feel of Africa. Though I will advise everyone to not stay on any of the menu screens for more than a few minutes as the opening twenty seconds of the song go from being very catchy to insanely irritating very quickly.
Extra features include three short featurettes about how the acting, the area of Great Karoo was created and a look at the Catherine Tate character Nora the Sheep. These are far too short and maybe should have just been added to the ten minute making of. This is fine and gives a brief overview of the making of the film. Trailer and two deleted scenes are fine, but these really don't add or take anything away from the film.
The inclusion of the film in 2D and 3D is a nice addition and though I would love to say the 3D element was great, it isn't. it has it's moments, but this is not the immersive atmosphere that Avatar created or the crazy 3D antics of something like Piranha 3D instead it's nothing special with only a few scenes that really take advantage of the format.
Khumba is not a terrible film, it's just not an amazing one. With the impressive work of Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks over the past few years with Pixar managing to get films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar this film felt a little flat. If it had been intended for TV that would have been fine, but as a theatrical film it just lacks some of that quality. However, if you do enjoy animation and a nice, simple story, then you may enjoy this film. Just don't expect anything special as this will not be the tale for you.