There's not much this movie doesn't have. Action? Got it. Romance? Yep. Comedy? Check. Wild animals? Naturally. Punching, gunplay, explosions, and rocket blasts? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Hyena bathing and slapstick elephant chases? But of course. Shape-shifting space aliens? Okay, it doesn't have that, but it has everything else and a cast that works well together and isn't overscripted.
The story follows a season in the lives of a team of big game hunters (a catch-and-release group that works for zoos and circuses). A couple outsiders come in and the group dynamic changes; the young girl of the group is suddenly all grown up and a love triangle (later a quadrangle) forms and resolves itself; the group's leader has to choose between letting go of the past or missing the relationship of a lifetime; and then there's the horrible rhino curse that must be broken. In lesser hands, it would all be a "very special episode" of Little House on the Savanna, but Howard Hawks masterfully directs his cast and winds up with some incredible footage of the African plains and its wildlife as well. Add in an excellent score by Henry Mancini, and you are really drawn into the action; the whimsical "Baby Elephant Walk" provides a nice break from the tension - you know nothing bad can happen once the calliope starts up, so just sit back and enjoy the fun.
John Wayne keeps his swagger and drawl mostly in check, but Buttons' physical comedy is a little overeager. Still, the remaining 98% of the film is on target in tone and balance. The scenes between lovelorn Martinelli and Buttons feel genuine, the animal herding and capture scenes feel dangerous, the rhino goring and dislocated shoulder repair feel painful, and your arteries begin to clog at the mention of codfish cakes deep-fried in antelope fat.
This is a great movie to lose yourself in. Just make sure you have a full two-and-a-half hours to spend; once you begin you won't want the action, romance, and comedy to stop for even a minute.