Rating: 3 out of 5.

Endangered Species makes the case for one way to fix your dysfunctional family: set them loose in the wilds of Africa! The father is uptight, and not a fan of his daughter’s schlubby boyfriend (Chris Fisher) or the thrall he holds over Zoe (Isabel Bassett); Daddy Jack (Philip Winchester) is also afraid his son’s boyfriend might be a distraction for Noah (Michael Johnston) and his athletics. Or maybe he’s just homophobic? Lauren (Rebecca Romijn), the matriarch of the family, finds out that Jack has been “put on administrative leave,” after they’re already on their little family playcation. With the whole family stuffed into a safari vehicle, they decide to take the scenic route and travel off-course. Noah’s driving is called into question when they stumble upon an “incredible” giant impressive-CGI rhino. With the van between the rhino and its baby, the creature attacks, damaging the car. The family gets stranded far from civilization, with the looming threat of rogue poachers, a pack of wild hyenas, and bloodthirsty panthers. What could go wrong?

A lot, it would seem. But every series of unfortunate events is a bright new chance for the family to come closer together. Each of their circumstances gets layers of attention. Thanks to an intense sequence with panthers, the danger feels very real from early on. It’s a ride that never stops once it starts going, with a vibe that’s akin to Jurassic Park. The suspense is well-crafted thanks to writer/director M.J. Bassett, director of 2012’s underrated Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. I became so attached to this family that during each wild encounter of their foreign surroundings was cause for nail-biting nervousness.

With the right set of expectations, Endangered Species is a total blast in all the right ways. It showcases the inherent beauty of nature, and the whole film serves as one big meaningful safari metaphor. Gorgeous visuals compliment the narrative, only using CGI when absolutely necessary. I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away by the beauty and scope. Even something as simple as a baby rhino in peril pulls at your heartstrings. The family’s impossible circumstances force them to be resourceful, and to work together as a functioning family unit. Even when it’s screaming “Poachers are bad!” in your face, Endangered Species brings home its messages with a satisfying and touching conclusion. For a thrilling action adventure, there’s a beating heart at the center in the inter-most workings of this close-knit brood.

Endangered Species crawls to limited release theaters and VOD on May 28th.

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