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- Published on Amazon.com
Retracing the steps of H.M. Stanley in his historic 1871 expedition to find Doctor David Livingstone is a notion so rich in possibilities that it's only fair to be amazed at how badly the execution was botched. But botched it was and it starts with the cast of explorers:
The Good: This is Benedict Allen, writer, filmmaker, and "survivalist." Dependable, affable, steady, Allen is the sort of man that once kept the sun from setting on the British Empire.
The Bad: Well, not bad, really, just inexperienced. Kevin Sites is a journalist and the type of hopelessly middle-class American who wants to hug everyone in sight. He sees his task on the expedition as (paraphrasing) "...bringing together different people and cultures..." Sites takes upon himself the duties of union steward to the expedition's African porters. They seem amused by this.
The Ugly: The expedition's incompetent navigator, Pascuale Scatturo is physically repulsive, intellectually retarded, and personally reprehensible. And he will not, not for one moment, shut his mouth. The producers, one can only guess in an attempt at cleverness, failed to name a leader for the expedition, instead throwing together four people who met only the day before they set out from Zanzibar. Not surprisingly, the loud-mouthed Pascuale, much to the others' horror, takes on the lead role for himself. "I've lead hundreds of expeditions..." he boasts to the camera, oblivious to the fact that such a feat would have required him to lead 2 1/2 expeditions every year since he was two. I found myself waiting for the punch line, the denouement, the moment when the lion leaps out of the bush and devours Pascuale; but no such luck is to be had.
The Wild Life Expert: Mireya Mayor. If you're going to go to the bother of having a woman on a strenuous journey in the wilds it at least helps to have one that looks like a Miami Dolphins cheerleader (her previous occupation). Ms. Mayor comes off as cute, sweet, and inept, but this is due only to poor editing. The viewer should see much more of Mayor describing the animal kingdom and its habitat - it is, after all, Africa. But no, we are instead subjected to endless footage of the explorers trudging, trudging some more, then squabbling, then squabbling endlessly.
As for historical accuracy: One or another of the intrepid voyagers is continually, and plaintively, repeating that they have 900+ miles to cover in only 30 days, before the rainy season sets in. Wait a minute, that's 30 miles per day... with a baggage train... in that terrain? What did I miss? What I missed, probably while getting popcorn, was a single shot, about half way through the film, of the tail end of a Subaru Outback and the briefest of voice-overs admitting that the expedition had opted to take motor transport around the nowadays more populated portions of Stanley's route. The same Outback makes a final appearance at journey's end, Ujiji, on the east shore of Lake Tanganyika, where our heroes hug each other and any bemused African within reach, climb in, and drive into the sunset.