movie review: the elephant in the living room

should wild animals be pets?

by ali hoffman

Yesterday in New York, the media was abuzz with news of a missing Bronx Zoo cobra.

Today, the poisonous reptile became an insanely popular twitter account that spoofs the runaway snake.

It's really funny, but it also seems too ironic considering the imminent release of The Elephant in the Living Room, a new documentary focusing on the odd American trend of keeping highly dangerous, exotic animals as pets. 

According to the film, the media is largely to blame for the desire for one's own tiger / dolphin / chimp. Whether it's an 80-pound snake draped around David Letterman's neck or a man wrestling a crocodile in South America, the message is the same: These animals are here to entertain us, and give us a new furry friend.

But as the documentary clearly points out, there's never a happy ending to this story, as time and time again the animal proves not to be a playmate but a reminder that wildlife got its name for a reason.

Directed by Michael Webber, this true story is equally informative and thought-provoking.  And while you may walk into it wondering, "Why on earth would anyone want to own a lion?" you'll likely be surprised by how quickly that question loses importance.

In the end, Webber's doc is more about the surprising nature of humans than it is about the hazard of owning a wild animal.

P.S. The cobra's still missing from the zoo.

The Elephant in the Living Room debuts on April 1st.  Click here for a full list of theaters and showtimes.