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06.29.2000

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flick pick | Cane Toads, An Unnatural History 1987
Directed by:
Mark Lewis
Starring:
cane toads by the thousands
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
documentary

Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:
true?!?, whimsical

Plot synopsis In the 1930s, farmers in North Queensland, Australia found themselves with a pesky problem: beetles and grubs were destroying their sugarcane crops. They thought they’d found the perfect solution in the Cane Toad, Bufo marinus, which scientists had assured them was doing a bang-up job of taking care of crop pests in Hawaii. So Cane Toads were introduced to Australia, in one of the biggest ecological mishaps in Australian history. See, the scientists had neglected to take note of one little fact: that the beetles could fly, and the Cane Toad, being a toad, lead a strictly earth-bound life. Not surprisingly, therefore, their introduction made no impact whatsoever on the raging sugarcane pest population. Even worse, the Cane Toad proved unusually adept at adapting to its new environment, mainly for two reasons: its astounding reproductive output and a poisonous toxin that it secretes when under attack, thus ensuring that any potential predator is killed on the spot after attempting to nab one of the not-so-tasty looking morsels. Toss in the factor that these really very stupid creatures will eat everything in sight, and you’ve got a real environmental disaster: Cane Toads are proliferating, killing off much of the native wildlife in the process (plus a fair number of inquisitive housepets). The Cane Toads are taking over, and everyone, it seems, has a strong opinion concerning his relationship with these ubiquitous neighbors.

Review Only the Australians could make a nature documentary that’s as wacky and entertaining as Cane Toads, An Unnatural History. The box cover proclaims, "If Monty Python produced a National Geographic Special, it would be Cane Toads, An Unnatural History," and this is one marketing tagline that does a pretty dead-on perfect job of capturing the spirit of this documentary. Chock full of strange personalities making unintentionally hilarious statements, it’s really the relationships developed between humans and cane toads that make for thoroughly engrossing viewing. Some people love ‘em – like the old couple that treat the toads as "mates" (that’s Australian for "friend," in case you were thinking otherwise) and feed them cat food, to the chubby little girl who keeps a fat-ass cane toad named Dairy Queen as sort of the world’s ugliest living doll, to the town official who (unsuccessfully) petitions to erect a gigantic cane toad bust in the center of his town. Others all-out loathe ‘em – like the local who wages all-out war on the Cane Toad population, making it his personal mission in life to chase down each and every one with his dilapidated clunker of a truck, swerving left, and right, left, and right, all over the toad-infested roads. Cane Toads is educational, sure, but never fear: this is one nature documentary that’s as far away from PBS-special-dryly informative as you could ever imagine.o

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