Omar (Antonio Aakeel) is the odd man out in his family. His adoptive parents had one biological child, Pete (Jack Carroll), before they adopted him. When they died (ostensibly consumed by lions on safari, hence the title), their Grandmother took them in.
Pete is a disabled nerdy kid, where Omar is dark and dashingly handsome. Together they become an inseparable team, calling themselves The Dog and The Wolf, though they never entirely settle on which is which. Gran is their tough-minded parental guide and kind mentor. The three of them get on very well.
Jason Wingard directs British comedy Eaten By Lions, a buddy movie about brotherhood and the true nature of family reminiscent of Rory O’Shea Was Here with a bit of Bend it Like Beckham.
In their teen years, Gran falls ill and they care for her until she passes. She leaves Omar a picture and a note telling him who his biological father is. She always knew, but never liked the man so she never shared the information while she was alive.
“…a gentle and well-intentioned look at family cultural differences…“
Pete’s biological Aunt Ellen and Uncle Ken have offered to take the boys in, but they are clearly uncomfortable with Omar, leading him to decide to go find his father. Thinking he will need to travel to India, he finds rather that his father actually lives not so far away in Blackpool and he sets off, Pete insisting on going with him. Arriving in Blackpool, they interrupt a large family engagement party. Pete plays detective sorting through mistaken identities and denials until he gets the truth: Omar’s father is Irfan (Asim Chaudhry), a spoiled, over privileged man-child who had a fling with Omar’s mother.
Family dynamics are challenged in the shock of this revelation as Irfan and Omar work through what it means going forward. Pete acquires a love interest in the beautiful and aggressive Parveen (Natalie Davies). Omar hits it off with a local Blackpool girl whose fiery attitude appeals to him. Blackpool is a new adventure for the boys.
The tone of the film changes dramatically then from Dinner With the Dursleys to Bollywood in Blackpool. The Indian characters are played for laughs, but it is a gentle and well-intentioned look at family cultural differences.
Eaten by Lions is aiming for a delicate balance between crass and sweet, and it does hit the mark sometimes, but mostly falls short at landing the comedic/dramatic punches. You’ll want to like the film more than you actually do. Charming characters don’t offset the lack of substance. That said, there’s still a lot of heart and soul to enjoy. Worth a rainy afternoon viewing.
Eaten by Lions (2019) Directed by Jason Wingard. Written by David Isaac and Jason Wingard. Starring Antonio Aakeel, Jack Carroll, Asim Chaudhry.
6 out of 10