Making the Grades
If you have seen Free Willy, you know the framework that Born To Be Wild was moulded upon. Like Free Willy, this movie feels that a rebellious boy and an exploited animal make a great combination. Unlike Free Willy, Born To Be Wild leaves its audience confused as to just what the movie is trying to say or do.
If you could cut out the middle, you would have a good twenty minute film. It begins with a young boy being pursued by police and a baby gorilla being captured by poachers. It ends with the boy making a difficult choice about freedom and rights. However, in the middle, it suddenly turns into a slapstick comedy, full of some of the most ridiculous typecast characters I have ever seen.
While travelling up the west US coast in a stolen van with a stolen gorilla, the boy once again has the police following him -- two clueless detectives that seem to have landed from another movie. As he goes through the "backwoods" of Oregon, he meets a farmer that is portrayed as a hillbilly complete with banjo music in the background. And next comes another police officer who is even dumber than the first two. This formula know-it-all-kid plot continues for the rest of the movie, where every adult shown in the film is stupid and usually represents the enemy.
I always recommend watching movies with your children, if possible. This advice especially applies to movies like this. I feel that films that are full of people in authority positions (police, parents, teachers, etc.) acting as fools or enemies can give children the impression that adults are not to be trusted. This movie makes the combination even more effective, as it is dealing with two subjects children see as being especially serious: The exploitation of an endangered animal and society's reactions toward a wayward youth. These issues may seem so realistic, that children might assume the other elements of the film are just as real.