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‘Beast’: Don’t put your head in this lion’s mouth – Play It Again, Tim

Written by Tim Miller

Combine “The Lion King,” “Cujo” and “Jaws the Revenge” and you get …

“Paws the Revenge”?

Wait. No. It’s “Beast” (R, 93 minutes, in theaters).

But “Paws the Revenge” would have been so much better.

Idris Elba plays a doctor vacationing with his two teenage daughters. That’s a scary enough thought, but it gets worse. Traveling in Africa, they and their friend-guide (Sharlto Copley) wind up the prey of a very large, very angry lion.


Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) is having a bad day in “Beast.” (Universal Pictures)

How large? When they discover the tabby’s footprint, it’s the size of Michigan.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. Just the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

The lion is angry because it has lost its pride – not its sense of dignity, but the rest of the lions in its group. A band of poachers slaughters them for profit, and the ticked-off surviving feline responds by slaughtering them, and then an entire village. Next on the menu: good doctor Nate Samuels, daughters Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Jeffries), and family pal Uncle Martin (no apparent relation to “My Favorite Martian”).

They wind up stuck in a Jeep that’s crashed, stalled out, and is now hanging precariously off of a rocky ridge. Meanwhile, the lion prowls about, occasionally smashing into the Jeep like a punk rocker slam-dancing his way into a mosh pit.

This leaves us to watch and wonder whether anyone is going to get eaten. (My money was on likable Uncle Martin; yours likely will be, too.) Meanwhile, Dad says to Meredith (or “Mer,” as she insists) and Norah things like “It will be all right” (yeah, really comforting, Padre) and “Stay here, OK?” when he’s about to go off and put himself in danger. The teens unintentionally, but obnoxiously, make the situation worse, whether by not staying put, driving poorly, or bringing up family issues when, really, it’s not exactly a convenient time for that. No wonder Nate and Uncle Martin occasionally put themselves in harm’s way just for a little short-lived solitude.

Pretty much every turn is intended to jack up the tension. But it’s hard to get too riled up when everything is so contrived (even the doc’s recurring dream about his now deceased, formerly estranged wife is heavy-handed). You do wonder how Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (“Adrift,” “2 Guns”) will end this thing, but the finale, clearly intended to be clever, is eye-rollingly awful.

It’s a shame actors like Elba and Copley are in something like “Beast.” But they must have known that they were walking into a cinematic lion’s den. *½ (out of four)

** Click here for  Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **

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Tim Miller

Play It Again, Tim

Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He also teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.

About the author

Tim Miller

Tim Miller, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, was the Cape Cod Times film critic for nearly 36 years. A Detroit native (and hardcore Tigers fan), he’s been obsessed with movies since skipping school in 1962 to see “Lawrence of Arabia” with his parents when he was 7. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his master’s from Suffolk University, where he taught film and journalism for 10 years. He continues to teach film at Curry College and Cape Cod Community College. He is a juror each year for the short-film competition of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, has moderated several panel discussions at the Woods Hole Film Festival and frequently is heard as a guest on Cape & Islands NPR station WCAI. His work appeared as a chapter in the book “John Sayles: Interviews.” His favorite movie is Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous” – because it makes him feel good to be alive.

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