Movies about animals can often fall into two camps. One is a film filled with cute fur babies that cause audiences to "aww" over and over. The other is a film that focuses more on how an animal can save a human by the connection they have. The Wolf and the Lion tries to be both and is full of predictable beats. Director Gilles de Maistre wants to get across a message at the same time. The result is a routine yet confused film with a bunch of cute animal footage. Your mileage may vary,
The film takes aim at the ways circus handlers treat animals and the efforts of conservationists who breed endangered animals and release them back into the wild. I am not sure I would place these two entities on the same level of evil but alas, the film sees little distinction between them. For a film that wags its fingers at the training of animals to perform tricks for audiences under the big top, it seems to feature plenty of trained animals doing tricks. I would like to know how a wolf plays piano if not trained to do so. This blurred line between circus-trained animals and movie-trained animals confuses the film's heavy-handed message. I kept asking myself how one is acceptable while the other is the face of animal cruelty.
The film follows Alma (Molly Kunz), an only child who is about to graduate from a music conservatory. Her grandfather passes away as she approaches her final recital that will determine if she places in a California symphony. She heads to Canada for the funeral. There she meets her godfather Joe (Graham Greene) and begins to wrap up things at her grandpa's place. Her plans get interrupted when a white she-wolf takes refuge with her cub in her grandpa's place after being hunted by a conservationist. Things complicate further when a plane crashes outside and a lion cub survives. The lion was destined for the circus. Alma provides sanctuary and the two young animals bond.
The film features the wolf and lion upon which the story is based upon. Dreamer the lion and Mozart the wolf live together in the Canadian wilderness today. While that is touching, the screenplay by Prune de Maistre lacks focus and never develops the main plot. Is the focus on Alma and how her dream changes from music to saving these two animals? Is it about how unnatural the bond between wolf and lion is? Is it a cautionary tale about conservationists and circuses? The film doesn't know what it wants to focus on. As a result, the film jumps from scene to scene with little regard for what came before it. In one moment, we see Alma prepping to go into her final exam. In the next, she is back in Canada at the cabin. We learn later that she gave up the chance to play with an orchestra to stay with Dreamer and Mozart. She tells Joe that the dream of music was someone else's dream for her but we never see that. The film tells and doesn't show when it comes to plot. It is if the filmmakers felt that if it followed one central storyline, there wouldn't be as much time for cute animal footage.
While the animals are charming in the film, the humans are not. The circus owner after his lost lion is cartoonishly evil. The conservationists are buffoons. Alma is so mixed up that you can never understand what motivates her. All of this leads to a confused and bland film. But hey, those animals are cute.