We gave it a B
Years after his two great close encounters with the natural world, The Black Stallion (1979) and Never Cry Wolf (1983), director Carroll Ballard still works in his ravishing, nearly pointillistic style of organic visual splendor. Yawning apes, a sun-blasted jungle vista, an attack by crocodiles: In Duma, adapted from the popular children’s book How It Was With Dooms, images like these appear just as splendid and strange as they should. Ballard connects you to the beauteous inner calm of the wild, even if audiences today are looking for a lot less calm. Xan (Alex Michaeletos), a boy growing up on a farm in South Africa, adopts an orphaned cheetah cub and must return the grown-up predator to the wilderness plains. The journey, at once wondrous and cute (Xan buddies up with a wayward tribesman played by the feisty Eamonn Walker), has passages of enchantment, but you’re always aware of how much the prosaicness of the tale lags behind the poetry of the telling.