Born To Be Wild
Since his father abandoned him and his mom, Margaret (Helen Shaver), 14-year-old Rick (Wil Horneff) is the typical rebellious teen. He’s sassy and gets into trouble. Simply put, Rick has a bad attitude. As punishment, he’s forced to do janitorial duties at the research facility where Margaret is teaching sign language to a gorilla named Katie. Just as Rick and Katie become friends, Katie’s original owner Gus (Peter Boyle) takes her back to be a sideshow attraction at his flea market. Enraged, Rick rescues Katie and makes a mad dash for Canada, where he thinks she’ll be safe. Along the way, he becomes very much like a parent trying to temper Katie’s childlike antics. Ultimately, Rick lands in court, defending his actions and still protecting Katie. Though somewhat predictable, BORN TO BE WILD’s humor, crisp photography and Horneff’s emotive acting meld into an entertaining 90 minutes.
This film may open the door for parent-child discussions of proper behavior. The young hero is far from heroic: he yells at his mother, joyrides in stolen cars, and takes the law into his own hands. However, much of his behavior is attributable to his struggle over his father’s abandoning him. Less understandable is the wimpy behavior of the boy’s mother who can’t control him. The police and court authorities are depicted as fools. Most disturbing is the overall theme that gorillas are “our sibling species”; we differ in degree only, not in kind. Indeed, we should treat animals compassionately, but this humanistic worldview negates humankind’s distinction in God’s eyes. With only a limited amount of foul language and none of the sexual innuendoes so prominent in young-teen movies, this movie comes is recommendable at the 12+ level. As fodder for discussion, BORN TO BE WILD can be quite useful. As pure entertainment, it poses a threat to developing sensitivities and parent-child relationships.