Delhi Safari, “India’s first locally made stereoscopic 3D animation film,” not only aspires to be like the Madagascar films and the second-rate output of DreamWorks Animation in general, it makes them look like dazzling achievements by comparison. While it thankfully isn’t overloaded with the pop-culture references typical of the Shrek franchise, it does have its fair share: to Clint Eastwood, Freud, Klingon, PETA, Matrix-style slow-mo action sequences, and even Madagascar itself. At least in this film these nods make some sense given that they’re mostly spewed by the media-savvy Alex (Tom Kenny), a film director’s smart-aleck pet parrot who gets recruited by a gang of jungle animals for his ability to talk to humans so that he can help them save their home from deforestation.
The film, directed by Nikhil Advani, begins with the animals of Sanjay Gandhi National Park begrudgingly planning to evacuate their land, which is going to be replaced by an eco-friendly apartment complex, and in a plot detail reminiscent of The Lion King, Yuvi (Tara Strong), a leopard cub, is stirred to fight back the greedy redevelopers after they murder his father, Sultan (Cary Elwes). A whole spectrum of dated-looking, clunkily animated characters—Yuvi’s mother, Begum (Vanessa Williams), Bagga (Brad Garrett) the bear, Bajrangi (Carlos Alazraqui) the monkey, a pigeon (Christopher Loyd), and Alex the parrot—subsequently band together to trek to Delhi where they hope to have their story heard.
Their journey’s momentum is bogged down in too many song-and-dance numbers that feel like pointless distractions. And even though the film begins by emphasizing Yuvi’s purpose in the group’s mission, the character ends up a cipher. Yuvi receives encouragement from his father’s ghostly spirit, but he doesn’t seem to grow from the challenge that’s defined his young life; instead, he often takes a backseat to the older characters, who prove more useful in advancing the group to Delhi. Despite how much this Bollywood children’s film feels like a cheap imitation of not even Hollywood’s best animated products, its green message—that humans aren’t the only ones living on this planet and that nature should be protected, so animals may also have a home in it—feels substantial and wholehearted. But a much better way to strike home the same message, while also having more fun, would be to just skip this movie and take your kids to a national park.