By Bill Arceneaux
From its opening “seal of approval” credit from the American Humane Society, Roar had me laughing (no, not roaring with laughter). It was a similar reaction to a similar movie, the Werner Herzog classic Grizzly Man. I say similar only in how it garnered similar feelings from me regarding its subject, Timothy Treadwell. The man shot some remarkable footage and was a great animal rights advocate, but would come off most of the time as a naive hippie, someone who didn’t quite grasp the danger of his situation. “Feeling” as one of the animals, but not “really” being one of them.
That movie had an undeniable human spirit and heart, despite the flaws of the man in focus. Roar, on the other hand, just exposes naivete at its most rich, oblivious and misguided. Drafthouse Films (the distribution wing of Alamo Drafthouse, who’ll soon be opening a Baton Rouge location) rediscovered this lost disaster-piece, and rightfully so have brought it into the modern pop culture stratosphere. Nothing short of amazing and horrifying, crazy and even a bit despicable, Roar must be seen to be believed.
Allow me to describe my two favorite scenes:
In the first, an animal researcher, who has been living with lions AND tigers IN his African home, is visited by the committee overseeing his project. They come in on boats, eager to learn of his progress. Instead, they are greeted by a raving madman, surrounded by wild beasts. They argue, only for the researcher to leave in a hurry, as some of the lions have started fighting. While gone, some tigers capsize the committee boats, and attack, bludgeoning some of the members. “Oh, it’s just a scratch!” the researcher pleads, as the committee rightfully make for their lives.
If I ever get a grant to do anything, surrounding my committee with lions and tigers might not be on my checklist of things to do.
The second scene is the arrival of the man’s family, who come upon his home and “friends.” For the next almost hour, they hide in closets and refrigerators, scared to death and scarred for life. Great visit, Dad!
The film is supposed to send a message of harmony and beauty, shining a light on the wonders of nature and animals. Instead, we are watching helplessly as actors are dodging maulings and tigers fight with one another. It’s funny, how earnest the movie is when all is said and done. In the editing booth, were the filmmakers not shaking their heads at what they produced, knowing what it took to make it? Scalpings, bites, and gores—all in a days work?
Watch at your own risk, laugh at your own delight and be frightened for others all at once!
3 / 5 *s
Roar is finishing its run at Zeitgeist in New Orleans this week, and will come to Baton Rouge’s Manship Theatre on June 3rd and 17th. For more from the author, follow him on twitter @BillReviews and visit his site criticalno.com.