Phenomenal 3D Imax visuals more than compensate for prosaic storytelling in “Flight of the Butterflies,” an unabashedly old-fashioned nature docu best suited to museums and similar non-theatrical venues. Borrowing a page from the “March of the Penguins” playbook, helmer Mike Slee neatly balances entertainment and education in a 44-minute pic bound to fascinate schoolchildren on field trips and please family auds during weekend outings.
Slee and co-scripter Wendy MacKeigan follow the life cycle of a monarch butterfly — from caterpillar to chrysalis to adult insect — and its long-distance migration from Canada to Central Mexico. Intertwined with this narrative is a borderline-reverential account of Canadian scientist Fred Urquhart (Gordon Pinsent), who devoted nearly 40 years to tracing the monarch migration route. Despite Pinsent’s affecting earnestness, however, highlights from Urquhart’s life and research come off like stately, self-conscious dramatic re-enactments in a lesser cable-TV nonfiction series. “Flight of the Butterflies” is much more effective when it dazzles with literally larger-than-life spectacle, unleashing hundreds of 3D butterflies that appear to hover just inches away from viewers, or focusing on a single monarch that, in giant-screen closeup, resembles Mothra bearing down on Tokyo.