Mia and the White Lion follows the relationship between the Owen family and a rare white lion cub named Charlie who they raise. Mia, played by Daniah De Villiers, is a girl who grows up with her very own baby lion and develops a deep bond, she seems to have a special connection. She and her brother and family all live in South Africa and get to breed, raise, and rescue many exotic and fascinating animals.
The movie was shot over the course of three years and we get to see both the children and the lion actually grow up before our eyes. This amount of actual time is necessary to be able to form a close enough bond between the actors and the real-life animal to be able to have children in such close quarters with the lion so they can bring to screen the fantastical experiences they end up depicting. Viewers get to see something unlike what they are able to capture in most movies. Animal fans will love getting a glimpse of what it’s like to live the dream of growing up on a lion conservation in South Africa and be enthralled by watching a real lion frolicking around inside a house and getting into adventures.
While Mia and Charlie’s relationship is at times magical, and even funny, it is one that is repeatedly advised against becomes incredibly dangerous once Charlie grows too far big. It reaches a point where Mia’s disregard for the warnings she is repeatedly given goes beyond personal safety and extends to the safety of visitors, workers, and even her brother and initiates drastic measures being taken to keep from welcoming a tragic accident. While Mia and Charlie’s bond seems genuine and special it crosses lines and eventually Mia realizes that Charlie would ultimately be better off on a nature preserve where he can be protected and would be cherished from afar by the local people then kept around humans. She bravely goes on a daring and treacherous mission to release him. Their antics take them through the South African wilderness, across cities, and even through a shopping mall.
There is a strong anti-poaching message that also broaches the complex dilemmas involved in raising money to fund animal conservations and the grey market of selling a portion of the animals to facilities that where they ultimately are legally but tragically killed by trophy hunters on private land.
While the performances and script aren’t much to write home about and hampered by the disjoined way footage had to be shot the film is sure to appeal to children who wish they could be animal whisperer’s themselves. Thor the Lion, as he is known off screen, and his real-life handler Kevin Richardson do a great job. They’re able to enact fun scenarios like pouncing on a bedroom desk, thrashing around in a jeep while it’s being driven, laying on the ground rolling around getting big-kitty hugs, and running though a crowded shopping center. Mia and the White Lion is impressive for the fact there is no CG and is able to show very intimate interactions and close quarters scenes with an actual lion. While not as flashy or polished as films it has a unique charm to it and the amount of time devoted to shooting the project deserves respect.
Mia and The White Lion is out in theaters Apr 12th