The Wild Thornberrys Movie Review
- Holly McClure Movie Reviewer
- Updated May 01, 2013
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Rating: PG (some adventure peril)
Release Date: December 20, 2002
Cast: Brenda Blethyn, Jodi Carlisle, Lacey Chabert, Tim Curry, Rupert Everett, Flea, Danielle Harris, Tom Kane, Lynn Redgrave, Marisa Tomei, Alfre Woodard
Director: Jeff McGrath, Cathy Malkasian
Special Notes: Based on the Nickelodeon animated series. Chabert was in the Christian film "Hometown Legend".
Plot: The Thornberrys are a quirky family of naturalists who live in Africa. Parents Nigel (voice of Curry) and Marianne Thornberry (voice of Carlisle) have traveled all over the world with their three kids, Debbie (voice of Harris), 12-year-old Eliza (voice of Chabert) and their adopted wild younger brother Donnie (voice of FLEA), making wildlife documentaries. Eliza happens to have an unusual gift of speaking to animals (that she got from Mnyambo, an African shaman who granted her the power as long as she doesn't tell anyone she has it.) That gift, however, gets her in trouble when she goes off to play with several cubs belonging to Akela (voice of Woodard), a mother cheetah. When a poacher kidnaps one of the cubs, Eliza makes a desperate (and dangerous) attempt to save it. She follows the poachers to London with her pet chimp Darwin and likewise discovers a plan to kill an elephant herd with an electrified fence. Unfortunately her grandmother sees the entire event and is horrified at what her granddaughter is becoming so she insists that Eliza be shipped away to boarding school. Eliza doesn't feel like she fits into her new surroundings and quickly starts to feel guilty again for the kidnapping of the cheetah. She decides to run away and try and track down the poachers when she runs into Sloan (voice of Everett) and Bree Blackburn (voice of Tomei), claiming to be a wildlife veterinarian. Trouble brews as Eliza realizes it's up to her to risk her gift to save a friend.
Good: This is a movie that's based on a popular cartoon with the younger kids. Curry is always great at playing geeky or stuffy roles, Redgrave is divine as the grandmother and Chabert, well I have to admit that her voice has always bugged me - it's so nasal. But with this character it works and she does a decent job as the star of the show. Even Red Hot Chili Peppers band member Flea gets in on the notoriety as the wild-boy Donnie. Everett and Tomei are perfect as the bad guys. The premise of Eliza talking to animals is a lot of fun for the kids, I just wish it hadn't come through a Shaman. The characters get to travel to exotic locations and meet different cultures so the story ends up being somewhat educational. There are some nice African sounding tracks as well as a song by Paul Simon entitled "Father and Daughter" that is one of the better movie songs this year. The 80 minute length is just enough to entertain the kids and not long enough to torture parents.
Bad: I have to say that I just don't get it -- why are poop and flatulence jokes funny to kids? And why do kids cartoons need to have so many of them? In this movie they come about every 15 minutes - I kid you not. Including a song devoted to Donnie's "Wedgie Dance". There's some name-calling but nothing serious. The violence consists of a lot of chase scenes between man and animal, especially Eliza -- she sees a lot of action. A helicopter crashes (but the people who were on board escape uninjured), a gunshot and the cheetah cubs being chased. A rhino is shot. A girl is threatened by two wild boars, but they are scared away. A young man wrestles a dangerous looking snake. Several young people are tied up and threatened by a man and a woman. Gross stuff like a boy shoving a dung beetle up a chimp's nose or holding a handful of grub worms and then using a teapot to store them in an next we see a man and a woman drink some tea from it. A chimp burps, a horse flatulates and a chimp sinks into a pile of horse feces. Many baboons dance and wiggle their bottoms in people's faces. Again, parents you may want to explain what a Shaman is to your kids so the don't go around thinking some "religious" person can give them the ability to talk to the animals.
Bottom Line: Kids will be entertained and mesmerized by this movie because of the colorful animation, great songs and loud characters. If you're looking for a holiday movie to entertain the kids, this one should be a fun one for them as long as there are a few explanations from parents of some of the subject material.