Blu-ray Review: Island of Lemurs: Madagascar

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Lest anyone mistake Island of Lemurs: Madagascar as being part of a certain animated franchise whose title shares a key word, this is a live-action documentary with a serious message. Available March 31 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, this Morgan Freeman-narrated film offers a captivating primer on the enchanting primates known as lemurs. Running a brisk 41-minutes, it was filmed for (and released in) the IMAX format. The Blu-ray edition includes both the 2D and 3D versions. Filmed by director-cinematographer David Douglas on location on the island of Madagascar, the only indigenous home to lemurs, the results are a visual treat.

This isn’t a mere travelogue, however, as Island of Lemurs gets into the ecological issues that continue to threaten the existence of lemurs. We meet a variety of species, but also learn that many additional ones have become extinct. Raging wildfires that burn the rain forests of Madagascar in order to create land for grazing cattle are an ever-present threat. While the dignified gravitas heard in Freeman’s voice has become something of a cliché (see Mike Myers’ The Love Guru for a great gag centered on his prolific narration side career), the actor has an undeniable storytelling ability that pulls viewers into the plight of the endangered lemur.

We also meet primatologist Dr. Patricia Wright, a soft-spoken scientist who has dedicated her life’s work to the study of lemurs. She lives in Madagascar and freely admits that she is happiest when only in the presence of these astoundingly agile creatures. Her career would probably serve as a fascinating documentary on its own. But Island of Lemurs has a more modest goal. The aim of director Douglas and screenwriter Drew Fellman is to introduce viewers of all ages to the world of lemurs. The animals are obviously adorable enough to hook the youngest of viewers, but there’s just enough substance here to equally intrigue adults. Plenty of footage of lemurs bounding from tree-to-tree will keep likely inspire repeat viewings.

Warner Bros. Blu-ray is visually impressive, whether in 2D or 3D. The sights of Madagascar, not limited to the lemurs themselves, are pretty spectacular and they look great in this high definition presentation. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix is also splendid, with Mark Mothersbaugh’s music well integrated with the narration and atmospheric sounds.

The special features are short but sweet. On the downside, the featurettes mostly feel like promo trailers for the feature, an effect enhanced by the occasionally overlapping footage. There are eight segments in all, ranging from two to six minutes, for a total of about 25 minutes. Considering the relatively brief runtime of the main feature, it’s nice to have these extra glimpses into the Island of Lemurs: Madagascar.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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