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China is a big place, and director Lu Chuan's "Born in China" — the latest in DisneyNature's series of documentaries — does an admirable job of condensing that nation's vast array of natural wonders and wildlife into a brisk 76 minutes.

The movie travels from the high mountain plateaus of the west down to the bamboo forests, and focusing on five major species.

• In the Qinghai plateau, the cameras follow a snow leopard, stalking prey to feed herself and her two cubs.

• In the Sichuan mountains, a family of golden snub-nosed monkeys live, and the film focuses on a 2-year-old monkey being nudged toward self-sufficiency.

• Also in Sichuan, a mother panda feeds on bamboo and nurses her cub, and slowly prods the baby toward growing up and learning to protect herself by climbing trees.

• Across the plains, a herd of female chiru antelope migrate to a lake, where they give birth to new calves.

• And, symbolically uniting them all, a flock of cranes — which, according to Chinese folklore, carry the souls of dead animals to be reborn.

This being a Disney-produced nature documentary, in the tradition of the old "True Life Adventures" series, there's a fair amount of anthropomorphizing. In his narration, actor John Krasinski gives each of the creatures endearing names, makes cute jokes about the monkeys' antics, and so on. That said, Lu and his cinematographers don't shy away from the rough realities of life on the food chain, particularly in the footage of the snow leopard's desperate efforts to hunt for prey.

"Born in China" captures the beauty of China's wild spaces, and the charm of its creatures, in ways that will delight and educate viewers of all ages.

— Sean P. Means —


'Born in China'

A Disney-made documentary that captures the wonder of China's wildlife.

Where • Theaters everywhere.

When • Opens today Friday, April 21.

Rating • G

Running time • 76 minutes.

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