It's a detective story, a love story and an action flick. And it's about butterflies.
The 44-minute "Flight of the Butterflies," which opens Friday, Feb. 8, at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, tells two stories. The first concerns two scientists' quest to solve the mystery of how monarch butterflies migrate. The second is about what happens after they solve that mystery, climaxing with a screenful of fluttering monarchs, enhanced by the 3-D effects at the museum's IMAX Theater.
The scientists are Fred and Norah Urquhart, who recruit the nation — if you remember the "citizen scientist" boom in the 1960s, this story will be familiar to you — to tag butterflies and then set them free. Fred's dream, which has Norah's full support, is that one day someone will eventually find butterflies at the monarch mecca. Wherever that is.
The Urquharts discover that butterflies, which weigh less than a penny, require two or three generations to migrate from Mexico to the United States and Canada. Then, one "supergeneration" makes the return flight to Mexico.
The butterflies battle nature in their quest for milkweed, which is their only food source. Only one in 100 survive, and in the movie, ominous tractors and crop-dusters destroy their food sources.
The movie is most spectacular when it offers an up-close view of the animal's transformation from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult butterfly. The butterflies' trip across the continent ends with millions of monarchs flying 10,000 feet high in the mountains in the states of Michoacan and Mexico.
It's remarkable to consider how a creature this tiny can fly more than a thousand miles to meet up with millions of its brethren, when we can't even leave our neighborhoods without the aid of a GPS.
Once again, nature provides the ultimate reality show.
"Flight of the Butterflies" executive producer Jonathan Barker will hold a Q-and-A session after the 12:10 p.m., 1:45 p.m. and 3:20 p.m. shows Saturday, Feb. 9. Admission is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors, $7 for children 2 through 12. Events related to the movie's opening this weekend and Feb. 16-18 include a butterfly release, entomologist-hosted activities and kite-flying demos. Go to MODS.org/IMAX.