When zebra Khumba (Jake T. Austin) is born only half covered with stripes, his superstitious herd believe that he is curse on their way of life, and it is he who has caused the drought that befalls them. When he grows older, Khumba sets out to find a magical water hole, break the supposed curse and literally earn his stripes. This is easier said than done however, as Khumba has always lived in a secure enclosure and has little experience of life, and the creatures, that await him outside the fence.
The cast of Khumba is filled with great actors who bring their characters to life, Liam Neeson channels his inner evil as the tiger Phango, Richard E. Grant plays a vain ostrich, Steve Buscemi voices an opportunistic wild dog and Catherine Tate plays a slightly mad, lonely sheep. The cast does their best with the characters, and there are moments of comedy but this stellar cast is let down by over the top direction from Anthony Silverston and an uninspiring story.
Principally written by Raffaella Delle Donne and Anthony Silverston, Khumba is a morality tale in which the title character overcomes adversity and realises that the things that make him different are actually the things that make him special. So far, so familiar, and little is done throughout the film to make Khumba stand out from the pack. Although there is some clever observational humour and a couple of wise cracks, the characters feel so over the top as to be melodramatic, and it is difficult to relate to characters who are clownish with little depth.
The animation of the film is stylised, with many of the animals sporting unusual patterns and exaggerated colours. The desert setting of the film is beautifully realised, but there are moments where the animation slips, leaving the film feeling a little cheap and a little underdone.
In all, Khumba is just distracting enough to keep the little ones quiet for an hour or so, but with an uninspiring, familiar story, overdone characters and over the top voice performances, there is little here for anyone over the age of seven.