When a student who's been constantly performing badly suddenly goes a step above average, it's a rather pleasant surprise. More importantly, it's a moment of triumph for the kid, for its teachers, and for its family. And that is what Delhi Safari is for the Indian movie industry.
The rather run-of-the mill story tries to cash in on the popular "Save The Planet" ethos du jour amongst the multiplex youngsters. So you have Yuvraj, the leopard cub (Swini Khara), living blissfully in the forest with his mother the Queen (Urmila Matondkar), and father the Sultan (Suneil Shetty). They're a perfect little family living in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, better known to locals as Borivali National Park. They all live happily alongside other animals ...a mite too happily, we might add (predator and prey joining in song and dance to get predator's wife out of a miff, seriously?).
Soon, there is trouble in paradise in the form of evil bulldozers and gun-toting men razing down the forest. The rest of the movie is a rather irritatingly and unnecessarily long tale of the journey of the queen, the cub, Bajrangi the irascible monkey (Govinda), Bagga the know-it-all bear (Boman Irani), and Alex the modernity-loving mitthu (Akshaye Khanna).
The animation is decent but nothing to write home about. Every other moment in the plot is a Disney-generated "inspiration" (read: near blatant rip-off of The Lion King). One scene in particular, involving forbidden lands and wily hyenas, has been pretty much lifted from The Lion King.
The plot moves way too slowly, all thanks to unnecessarily long fillers that don't do much to add to the story. A good fifteen minutes of the movie involves the lead cast running from a bunch of bees. The scene looks good, but it would've been better if it had been kept under five minutes.
The performances are mostly forced, except a moment or two that strike a chord with the audience. In fact, the only performance that is consistently good is that of the cub. Kudos to Swini Khara.
The music is a major irritant whichever way you see it. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy can do better. There are way too many songs, none of which is good.
In the end, however, what let the movie down the most are not its ripped-off scenes or the sucky music or even the not-quite-juicy plot. It's simply that kids these days have much better fare in the hard drives of their computers.
Delhi Safari is watchable only if you want to see a Hindi animated movie that is a cut above its predecessors. If it is a good cartoon film that you're looking for, you're better off with your DVD of The Lion King, or Madagascar, or Rio or a zillion others.