"Flight of the Butterflies"

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.

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.

Flight of the Butterflies

Canada-Mexico-U.K.

Production

An SK Films release and production in association with Sin Sentido Films and Picture Projects. Produced by Jonathan Barker, Mike Slee, Rafael Cuervo. Executive producer, Jonathan Barker. Co-executive producers, Wendy MacKeigan, Maria Elena Gutierrez. Directed by Mike Slee. Written by Slee, Wendy MacKeigan.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color, Imax 3D), Paul Williams, Simon De Glanville; editor, Susan Shipton; production designer, Sandra Kybartas; sound, Peter Thillaye; macro photography systems designer, Peter Parks; visual effects supervisor, Chris Panton. Reviewed at Houston Museum of Natural Science, Oct. 6, 2012. Running time: 44 MIN.

With

Gordon Pinsent, Shaun Benson, Patricia Phillips, Sofia Sisniega, Stephanie Sigman. Narrator: Megan Follows.

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