A Far Off Place Review

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Two kids (Witherspoon and Randall) and flee across the desert after their group are killed by murderous ivory exporters. Luckily they have the aid of a bushman, (Bok) whose knowledge of nature help them to survive. Along the way they face various trials and tribulations, helping them transform from spoilt brats to world wisely teens.


Slaughter is the alarmingly predominant theme early on in this eco-conscious African adventure for kids based on two books by Prince Charles' environmental guru, world-renowned author Laurens van der Post. First, a sprightly herd of elephants are felled by Uzi-toting poachers, then a sprightly herd of rich American wildlife protectionists are massacred by the same marauders leaving little orphan Nonnie and her spoiled American brat visitor Harry to flee for their lives from the illegal ivory exporters. The nearest town, however, is a 1000-mile trek across the indomitable Kalahari Desert, with the only thing lying between the two teens and certain death being their own perky ingenuity and the outdoor survival skills of Nonnie's best friend, elfin bushman Xhabbo (Sarel Bok).

The fact that the duo would be burnt toast after, like, a day in the Kalahari is beside the point, this being one of those old-fashioned uplifting Disney tales about kids triumphing over insurmountable odds and scumbag grown-ups. Cue lots of coming-of-age desert rituals — digging for water with sticks, roasting bulbous roots for dinner, killing your first antelope, and somehow finding the time to tan its hide into a lovely wilderness vest — with teen romance blossoming all the while.

The dramatic potential of watching this rather bland trio tramping endlessly across piles of sand is swiftly expended, but the panoramic visuals are as awe-inspiring as you'd expect from an Oscar-nominated cinematographer-turned-director and there's a cracking new Roger Rabbit cartoon screened before it. Potential date movie material for envi­ronmentally aware 13-year-olds,

One of those Disney real-life films that tries to educate as much as entertain, aiming for Sunday-afternoon-family-film territory, which it succeeds in doing. With inspiring scenery, a bit of action and excitement and even a bit of romance there's something for everyone.