While the title alludes to the near extinction of certain categories of animals, this environmental issue is only explored in the climax and denouement of the film. The main focus in this holiday-turned-survival-story is a vacationing American family who become stranded while self-guiding through Amboseli National Park and come face-to-face with the danger of surviving amongst the Kenyan fauna.
Even though much of the wildlife is evidently computer-animated, audiences will not begrudge this crude method’s successful attempts to stimulate the action of the film. What is difficult to ignore, however, is the hokey script that disproportionately focuses on the contrived dynamics within the family at the expense of the animal welfare issues that come into stark focus at the end of the piece.
Philip Winchester plays Jack who has taken his family on an expensive holiday he cannot afford. Finances are not the only problems that will impact the trip, either. The father has a strained relationship with his son Noah (Michael Johnston), as he refuses to overtly recognise his boyfriend, and stepdaughter Zoe, who continuously renounces him the title of “dad” as he is not her biological parent.
Oddly, director and part screenwriter MJ Bassett chooses to frontload the feature with dialogue that exposes these domestic issues – something the audience may feel is incongruous with the enchantingly sprawling shots of Kenyan plains that opened the film. Even though the household become victims of a debilitating rhinoceros attack, they still find time to air their conflicts in the searing heat, while their hypoglycemic mother (Rebecca Remijn) is in urgent need of insulin.
Saturating the screen time with this emotional conflict, followed by mawkish reconciliations, causes two problems for the spectators: it dilutes the action, which should be the driving force of the story and restricts viewer’s sympathies for the stranded family.
Watcher’s compassion for the rhinoceros-victims of the poachers, whose characters are revealed in the climax of the picture, are not diminished, thankfully. A rescued baby rhinoceros is as cute as real life even when constructed via CGI. However, in a movie that unmistakably concludes with an on-screen plea for the recognition of the plight animals face in the wake of poaching, the focus on self-involved humans causes Endangered Species to seem ill-conceived, overall.
Endangered Species is released digitally on demand on 28th June 2021.
Watch the trailer for Endangered Species here: