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MOVIE REVIEW: The Elephant in the Living Room

Documentary on dangerous animals kept as pets

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It’s the year of the elephant. We had Water for Elephants come out a few weeks ago. Later this year, we’ll get Elephant White. This weekend, it’s The Elephant in the Living Room – perhaps the best title for a documentary since King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (highly recommend).

The movie follows around Tim Harrison, who’s a jack-of-all-trades in this Ohio town (medic, sheriff, martial arts expert, and animal wrangler). We learn about people that have exotic animals as pets. That means venomous snakes, dangerous wild cats, and yes, even elephants (I think we need a bigger house, Mildred!).

Along with the many animals he’s captured, there’s a lion experiencing road rage near a freeway. Harrison finds out it belongs to a disabled trucker, who has no intention of giving the two creatures up. He suffers depression, and the animals are therapeutic. It’s odd – you need a license to drive a car. You need a dog license. You can’t use your cell phone in a car, but... there are no laws on the book about having lions. This guy is so mean when Harrison tries to nicely explain why this situation is a disaster waiting to happen. I’ve never anxiously waited for that disaster so badly in my life. I wanted this trucker to be eaten alive by these creatures that had a horrible existence in their small cages.

Oh, and some horrible things do happen. You’ll have to see the movie to find out what they are.

I enjoyed how the movie cut to news stories of animal attacks – like the horrid 911 call we all heard from the woman that kept a chimp in her home that attacked her and a neighbor. There was a great scene where a doctor talks about how he had been going to Africa for 25 years, and he’d never seen anybody there that had lions or leopards in their yard, or people that kept cobras as pets. Often what happens, somebody gets an alligator or venomous snake, and when they get big or they are tired of them, they let them go. The problem is they live in Prescott, Arizona or somewhere.

There’s an interesting scene in this movie at an “exotic animal auction” in Amish country.

It was cute to see Harrison running around with a Snakes on a Plane shirt. And speaking of other movies and animals – We find out that the grizzly bear that Will Ferrell used in Semi-Pro killed its trainer after that film.

We get a scene with Harrison showing up, and it’s not snakes on a plane, but in a garage.At least once a year we hear about a boa constrictor killing a small child or swallowing family dog. Here, the little kids are playing with the snake they found there. He tells them it’s a viper, one of the most venomous snakes in the world (and not indigenous to that area).

The closing credits had very satisfying information provided, and since I grew up around the canyons of Mira Mesa – catching rattlesnakes, king snakes, and lizards – this movie really held my interest.

I’m giving it a B-.