Endangered Species (2021) - Movie Review

Endangered Species (2021) - Movie Review
5 10

PLOT: An American family on an African safari vacation gets stranded in the wilderness, where they're threatened by hyenas, cheetahs, rhinos... and poachers.

REVIEW: One year after giving the world Rogue, a film in which Megan Fox ran into trouble with dangerous humans and ravenous lions while in Africa, writer/director MJ Bassett and her daughter/co-writer Isabel Bassett return to Africa for Endangered Species (watch or own it HERE), a film in which a family runs into trouble with dangerous humans and ravenous animals while in Africa. This seems to be a concept the Bassetts enjoy dealing with, so let's see if they decide to make this an "Africa Screams" (to borrow a title from Abbott and Costello) trilogy. And in the meantime, let's dig into just how unfortunately underwhelming Endangered Species is.

It sounds like the set-up for a good time: an American family headed up by Rebecca Romijn and Philip Winchester as Lauren and Jack Halsey head out into the African wilderness for a safari vacation and end up on the wrong side of all sorts of animals out there, as well as a group of poachers led by fellow American Mitch Hanover (Romijn's real-life husband Jerry O'Connell). And by the time the 30 minutes dedicated to establishing the characters of Lauren, Jack, their kids Noah (Michael Johnston) and Zoe (Isabel Bassett), and Zoe's boyfriend Billy (Chris Fisher) makes way for the action and thrills, you'll probably be ready to see these characters get put through the wringer, because they are not the most likeable bunch. 

Billy is pretty much your usual movie hippie stoner. Interactions between Jack and everyone else have gotten strained for one reason or another. Things are awkward between Jack and Noah because Jack is dealing with the fact that his son is gay, Jack has been hiding the truth about his employment (or lack thereof) from Lauren, Zoe is going through a rebellious phase and has started referring to her father by his first name. Noah is the closest to likeable of the characters; Lauren would be up there with him if it weren't for the moment where she says she and the kids made Jack bring them to Africa because their Bora Bora beach vacations have gotten "boring". It's tough to side with someone who has had the opportunity to go on so many Bora Bora beach vacations that it has lost all of its appeal.

Endangered Species Rebecca Romijn Philip Winchester Isabel Bassett Michael Johnston Chris Fisher MJ Bassett

Then come the dumb decisions that put the family in danger in the first place and make it even more difficult for the viewer to care about the characters. Overcompensating for the problems his family has with him, Jack decides to drive them into the wilderness without a tour guide and passes through the safari park gateway without paying the safari fee or registering with officials. Not seeing any animals during the drive, Jack stupidly chooses to turn down a path that used to offer an "Off-Road Adventure Experience" but now has a "No Entry" warning on it. Whatever bad things happen to Jack, he has it coming. Oh, and don't expect Jack to get much better when everything falls apart around him. At first, he gets even worse.

So there's nothing to enjoy about watching the people. We have to hold on to the hope that the animal attacks we know are approaching are going to be entertaining. When they kick in, you have rhinos ramming vehicles, hyenas tracking people through the wilderness, cheetahs attacking characters and dragging them up into trees, and that's all cool. These animals don't get much attention in the "nature run amok" horror-thriller sub-genre, it's nice to see them get some time in the spotlight. But these animals are brought to the screen through the use of unconvincing CGI, and when they look this fake it's not much fun to watch them in action. 

At that point, the only hope for the film shifts onto the shoulders of Jerry O'Connell. O'Connell has some great moments, but by the time he becomes the primary antagonist it's too little too late, and Bassett even squanders the opportunity to show him acting villainous toward Romijn.

Endangered Species Philip Winchester MJ Bassett

Endangered Species is watchable. There are certainly worse ways to kill 101 minutes, and it does offer the chance to see some dumb and annoying characters get mauled or otherwise injured. But compared to how much B-movie fun it could have been based on the core ideas, it's about as disappointing as Jack is to his family. And it doesn't get a redemption arc.

Endangered Species will be receiving a limited theatrical release on May 28th, and will also be available on AppleTV and "everywhere you rent movies" on that date. A Blu-ray and DVD release will follow on June 1st.

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