Review: ‘Taina, an Amazon Adventure’

Luscious location shooting in Brazil's Amazon jungle, lively pacing, and loads of photogenic critters conspire to make "Taina, an Amazon Adventure" a comic eco-adventure that should delight most younger viewers, and keep parents fairly entertained as well.

Luscious location shooting in Brazil’s Amazon jungle, lively pacing, and loads of photogenic critters conspire to make “Taina, an Amazon Adventure” a comic eco-adventure that should delight most younger viewers, and keep parents fairly entertained as well. Slick package could score offshore theatrical exposure in Portuguese language, English-subtitled form. Dubbed, it’s a fine prospect for global ancillary sales.

When her elderly grandfather passes on, orphaned Indian tot Taina (Eunice Baia) wanders with her pet monkey Catu into the isolated hut inhabited by genial hydroplane pilot Rudi (Jairo Mattos) on the Rio Negro’s banks. He places her in temporary care of medical biologist Isabel (Branca Camargo), who’s working on a breakthrough jungle-fever vaccine; latter’s own bratty son, Joninho (Caio Romei), doesn’t like these newcomers, but then he’s been in a tantrum-throwing funk ever since arriving at this remote outpost.

Meanwhile, nasty local poacher Shoba (Alexandre Zachia) and his hapless sidekicks are searching for a rare Lagothrix monkey just like Catu. It — and/or Isabel’s research diskette — are coveted by unscrupulous Cruella DeVille-type Meg (Betty Erthal), whose lust for the Nobel Prize doesn’t prevent such unscientific tactics as theft, smuggling and kidnapping.

When Taina and Catu wander back into the wilderness, Joninho trails after them to spite his mother — though he’s not so brave once faced with the jungle’s many exotic perils. The two kids soon find themselves pursued by Shoba, Meg and their various flunkies, while Rudi and Isabel stage a frantic search. When adults end up in the clutches of the bad guys, it’s up to the under-8 set to rescue them, a mission accomplished in pic’s somewhat irresponsible climax (which suggests videogame mastery might enable a child to safely pilot an actual plane).

Resolutely good natured — apart from the fatal (if offscreen) justice dealt two characters by hungry crocodiles — pic serves up requisite rain forest preservation message in an accessible, fast-moving package, with dollops of Indian mysticism and Three Stooges-style slapstick on the side.

Screen newcomer Baia (a Bare Indian native of the region depicted) is a thesping natural; other perfs are broad but well-turned. Most alluring aspect for all ages, however, is the bountiful wildlife captured crawling, flying and scurrying about in Marcelo Corpanni’s color-bright lensing.

Tech package is first-rate.

Taina, an Amazon Adventure

Brazil

Production

A Tiete Producoes Cinematograficas Ltd. production. Produced by Pedro Carlos Rovai. Executive producer, Virginia Limberger. Directed by Tania Lamarca, Sergio Bloch. Screenplay, Claudia Levay, Reinaldo Moraes.

Crew

Camera (color), Marcelo Corpanni; editor, Diana Vasconcellos; music, Luiz Avellar; art director, Oscar Ramos; sound (Dolby Digital); assistant director, Chris D'Amato. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 6, 2001. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Eunice Baia, Caio Romei, Rui Polanah, Jairo Mattos, Branca Camargo, Alexandre Zachia, Luciana Rigueira, Charles Paraventi, Marcos Apolo, Betty Erthal, Luiz Carlos Tourinho.

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