A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the father in the film dies, and that one character almost dies twice. This may upset more sensitive viewers. The main character has to deal with his father's death, moving to a new town, enrolling in a new school, and letting go of his favorite pet -- stressful situations for any kid. The film may inspire young animal lovers to ask if they can have a cheetah or other wild animal for a pet. The main character also runs away from home to return his cheetah to the wild and befriends a stranger.
What's the story?
For Xan (Alexander Michaletos), life is about his father, their farm in South Africa, and their rescued cheetah, Duma. But all along, Xan knows he'll have to return Duma to the wild. The week before Xan and father Peter (Campbell Scott) plan to release Duma, Peter passes away. Xan's life is thrown into turmoil. He and his mother Kristin (Hope Davis) lease the farm and move to the city. Xan is enrolled at a school where he's bullied. Everything seems to go wrong, and then it really does: Duma escapes the apartment, and suddenly the pair is on the lam. Xan uses the opportunity to return Duma to the wild. Here begins a Herculean journey, where a young boy must face life-or-death situations (Where do I get food? Do I trust this stranger? How do I cross this river or evade these lions?). Xan befriends a backpacker, Ripkuna (Eamonn Walker) and the three trek through the desert, face sandstorms, crocodiles, wild boars, lions, and attacking insects.
Is it any good?
With the adventure of Huckleberry Finn and the majesty of The Black Stallion, DUMA is an enchanting coming-of-age drama that teaches viewers the power and importance of family. Kids will be as mesmerized by the action as they are enchanted by Duma's gentle and loyal spirit. Here, the story and story-telling shines. Director Carroll Ballard also directed The Black Stallion and Fly Away Home, and it shows. The camera lovingly follows Duma's every movement and sound, evoking emotions if not human characteristics.
Alexander Michaletos plays Xan well as a scrappy, ingenious kid whose loyalty matches Duma's. Xan's relationship with Ripkuna is unexpectedly loving. Father-figure Ripkuna protects him and teaches him to allow change --both in himself and in Duma, who is less and less a pet and more a wild animal. Bonds -- between a boy and his cheetah, a boy and his mentor, a boy and his deceased father, and a boy and his mother -- are the real driving force here. Duma shows they are stronger than any cheetah is fast.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about family members who have died and how they remember them. What do you do when you have to let go of someone or something you love?
The film may inspire kids to read the book upon which it's based, How It Was With Dooms, or to learn more about Africa's people and wildlife. A trip to the zoo might be in order. They may also want to talk about Xan's decisions. Would you run away from home? Would you talk to a stranger?
Would there be another way to get Duma released to the wild?
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