A young girl from London moves to Africa with her parents where she befriends a lion cub.
I can almost hear the resounding “uh-oh” emitted by animal lovers once they read the logline for Mia and the White Lion. Cinematic tales of human-animal bonding – from Old Yeller and Skip to Marley and Hachi – don’t tend to end well. Granted, those traumatic films deal with canine bonding, while director Gilles de Maistre’s family tale focuses on a girl’s friendship with a feline, a gorgeous white lion cub she calls Charlie. Whether his film ends on a similarly grave note, I’ll let you discover.
I will, however, state that while it contains some relatively graphic scenes, Mia and the White Lion is entirely suitable for older children – which does not excuse its overt politicizing (however laudable the message may be) and Lifetime-like dialogue. Thankfully, it’s redeemed by a charismatic, fearless central performance, as well as the sight of some of the most graceful creatures that roam this planet in increasingly diminishing numbers.
“Mia has trouble fitting in and making friends, until one Christmas morning, a white lion cub is born…”
Rebellious troublemaker Mia (Daniah De Villiers) loves heavy metal and getting into fights. Having recently relocated from London, she lives with her mom Alice (Mélanie Laurent), dad John (Langley Kirkwood) and older brother Mick (Ryan Mac Lennan) on an African farm. The place is filled with hippos, ostriches, zebras, elephants, giraffes – and lions, whom John sells to “other breeders,” so he could make enough money to turn the place into a tourist attraction. Mia has trouble fitting in and making friends, until one Christmas morning, a white lion cub is born, “a million-to-one chance miracle.”
Rejecting Charlie at first, Mia’s soon won over by his cuteness, taking selfies and playing together. Alice and John grow concerned that Mia and Charlie are “getting too close.” “A wild animal’s a wild animal,” dad warns daughter about the perils of feline adolescence, “and you can never change that, no matter what you do.” When they try to take Charlie away, he refuses to eat and gets into fights, mirroring Mia’s behavior upon relocation – so they’re reunited, much to Mia’s joy.