A thought crossed my mind when I saw the trailer of Ernie Barbarash's Holiday in the Wild – a Netflix original which has just begun streaming. Could it be another Out of Africa, helmed by Sydney Pollack and starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford that told us the story set around Nairobi, among the wild animals.
It was an epic romance. Or, could Holiday in the Wild be akin to the 1962 Hatari, directed by Howard Hawks and with John Wayne leading several actors who play professional game catchers in East Africa. This was more an adventure, thrilling at that, than romance.
Barbarash's film, which I just watched, unfolds in Africa all right, Zambia to be precise, but it is all about elephant conservation and poaching for ivory. Yes, there is a strong romance thrown in, and we see lots of beautiful animals, not just elephants. The plot is set inside an elephant reserve, where the animals are nursed back to health if they are wounded or calves whose mothers have been killed are tended till they are ready to be released into the forest.
As one reviewer quipped and I quote him: "When Netflix wants something, it stops at nothing to achieve it. It wanted an Emmy, so it made House of Cards. It wanted an Oscar, so it made Roma. And now it really, really wants you to spend your Christmas watching the fourth one from Sex and the City petting a baby elephant, because it has made Holiday in the Wild."
Yes, Christmas is 40 days away, but Holiday in the Wild wants to celebrate it now – or, at least get us all into the mood for the season of snow and Santa Claus. As the movie opens, we see Kate Conrad (Kristin Davis), her husband and son Luke taking pictures against the backdrop of a huge Christmas tree in their New York apartment.
It is August, but since Luke is leaving for college and may not be able to join his parents for the festival, the family decides to celebrate it months in advance. Soon after Luke departs, the husband tells his wife that he is no longer in love with her, and a dismayed Kate who had planned a second honeymoon in Zambia, decides to go alone (remember Kangana Ranaut's character in Queen?). There she meets Derek (Rob Lowe), a local pilot and elephant lover. We all know what happens next: the undulating and breathtakingly beautiful landscape against a setting sun or under a star-spangled sky can create magic and get hearts fluttering wildly.
Holiday in the Wild is a syrupy romance, only that the lovers are mature, grown-up people, and they handle their emotions subtly. There is no jumping around and doing all the wild things that the young tend to indulge in, especially when their hormones go berserk.
So, Holiday in the Wild becomes a perfect Christmas treat for the family. No sex or violence here, and you do not have to cover your junior's eyes at any point.
Yes, Holiday in the Wild is a feel good film that leaves you happy and supremely confident that the world is still, all said and done, a good place, where good things happen. At 86 minutes, it is silly yes and there is no dramatic curve, but it is, nonetheless, sweet and charming!
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic)