Elephant [2003]

Whispers is an unusual hybrid, a family film that looks like a documentary, but sounds like a Disney cartoon. No wonder--it's a little of both. Although not quite as moving as Dumbo or The Lion King, the 72-minute feature provides an evocative portrait of elephant life on the plains of Africa. The gentle creatures are voiced by a constellation of talented actors: Groove, for instance, as portrayed by Angela Bassett, is the crotchety elephant who adopts Whispers after he's separated from his mother, Gentle Heart (Anne Archer). Other voices include Absolutely Fabulous' Joanna Lumley and Joan Rivers. The effect is initially disconcerting and not as successfully realized as in Homeward Bound, but the human voices probably do make the story easier for younger viewers to follow. Less corny dialogue might have also contributed to a stronger result, but the fascinating cinematography and Trevor Rabin's lively score are a plus. For ages 6 through 12. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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