Carroll Ballard mavens who bemoan a meager output since his feature debut in THE BLACK STALLION/’79 (six films in 3+ decades) can see his dilemma crystalized in DUMA, his likely last. Not because it isn’t pretty darn wonderful, it is, it is! But because, at heart, it’s a rather conventional, if artful, family film, a blissed-out Boy-and-His-Cheetah fable, THE YEARLING/’46 meets BORN FREE/’66, with a side order of modernized Huck Finn/Slave Jim beefing up character development. Ballard’s open vision, nonjudgmental attitude & craft remain, but magic, inspiration & Jungian undertow show up only intermittently. Still, it’s a film that's tough not to fall for, with an impossibly handsome cast (man, child, beast, terrain) working old tropes, but not pushing too hard. With new angles cunningly caught by Ballard & lenser Werner Maritz. It's said cheetahs are the largest big cats who purr. And, even with impossibly high expectations not quite met, you will too.
DOUBLE-BILL: Disney’s CHEETAH/’89 tells a similar tale (kids/cheetah/Africa/return to the wild) in standard kiddie-formula mode. Damned if it didn’t bring in ten times this film’s gross. No surprise considering Warners’ dismal/dismissive release. Note our clueless poster which might be advertising GARFIELD IN AFRICA.