Born to Be Wild (1995 film)

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Born to Be Wild
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Gray
Screenplay byJohn Bunzel
Paul Young
Story byPaul Young
Produced byRobert Newmyer
Jeffrey Silver
CinematographyDonald M. Morgan
Edited byMaryann Brandon
Music byMark Snow
Fuji Entertainment
Outlaw Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • March 31, 1995 (1995-03-31)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,730,409[1]

Born to Be Wild is a 1995 American family comedy film released by Warner Bros. under their Warner Bros. Family Entertainment label.


14-year-old Rick Heller is a juvenile delinquent who keeps getting into trouble. Rick's single mother, Margaret, is a behavioral scientist at University of California, Berkeley, and she is studying interspecies communication between humans and gorillas, using sign language. After Rick goes on a joyride in his mother's van, she punishes him by putting him to work cleaning the cage of a female western lowland gorilla named Katie. Rick and Katie gradually form a close friendship, and he realizes that she is much more intelligent than the average gorilla.

However, they are separated when the owner of Katie, Gus Charnley, takes her away to become a flea market freak. Rick rescues her from Charnley, and the unlikely pair go on a road trip. They aim to get out of the US and cross the Canadian border in a bid for her freedom.

Eventually, they are caught by law enforcement and Rick must stand trial for stealing Katie. She is allowed to testify with a sign language interpreter, and she insists that Rick freeing her was morally right. Although Rick is found guilty of theft, he is appointed Katie's official guardian. Rick arranges for her to live in a gorilla sanctuary with her own kind, and he promises to visit in the future.



The film was made in the wake of the successful family film Free Willy (1993), as noted by critics upon the release of Born to Be Wild. [2] [3] [4] Free Willy's success led to the production of several films starring young protagonists and animal co-stars.[5] Joey O'Bryan of The Austin Chronicle compared Born to be Wild to Free Willy, Andre (1994), and Monkey Trouble (1994).[6]


Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 0% based on 9 reviews, and an average rating of 3.4/10.[7]

Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle said the animatronic gorilla looked phony, but concluded "The film has its moments of nutty fun" and "it also has a couple of touching scenes—if you can get beyond that bogus ape look."[8] The Washington Post critic Rita Kempley called it "a heart-yanking family yarn that resembles a simian adaptation of Nell" and also compared the movie to Free Willy.[9]

Emanuel Levy at Variety felt the film was "lacking the magic — and authenticity" of its predecessor, Free Willy, even though the gorilla character's ability to communicate allowed the film to more fully flesh out the friendship between its human and animal protagonists.[5]

In The New York Times, Stephen Holden praised the gorilla as "one of Hollywood's more successfully designed animatronic wonders," but felt that the plot followed a "thoroughly formulaic route," was too sentimental, and "[didn't] make nearly enough out of its comic opportunities." [10]


  1. ^ Born to Be Wild at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ CNB (5 April 1995). "Stoy, Gorilla Both Phony in "Born to Be Wild"". The Virginia Pilot. Archived from the original on 2023-03-30. Retrieved 1 April 2024.
  3. ^ Stack, Peter (3 April 1995). "Robot Gorilla Doesn't Cut It in 'Born'". SFGate. San Francisco. Archived from the original on 2023-04-16. Retrieved 1 April 2024.
  4. ^ "'Born to be Wild' A Knockoff of 'Free Willy'". South Florida Sun Sentinel. Florida, USA. 4 April 1995. Archived from the original on 2024-04-01. Retrieved 1 April 2024. The saving shred of grace in Born to be Wild – a complete dry-land rip-off of Free Willy – is its good intentions...The similarities between this jungle book and Willy's whale of a tale are endless, right down to the exact manner in which Katie butts up against her plexiglass "cage" in a futile attempt to break free from show biz.
  5. ^ a b Levy, Emanuel (26 March 1995). "Born to Be Wild". Variety. Los Angeles. Retrieved 1 April 2024.
  6. ^ O'Bryan, Joey (7 April 1995). "Born to Be Wild". Austin Chronicle: Chron Events. Austin, Texas. Archived from the original on 2023-03-31. Retrieved 1 April 2024.
  7. ^ "Born to Be Wild". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 17, 2022.
  8. ^ Peter Stack (1995-04-03). "Robot Gorilla Doesn't Cut It in 'Born'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
  9. ^ Rita Kempley (1995-04-03). "'Born to Be Wild'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
  10. ^ Holden, Stephen (1 April 1995). "Serenade to the Love of Boy and Gorilla". The New York Times. New York City. Archived from the original on 2015-05-26. Retrieved 1 April 2024.

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