A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that sensitive animal lovers need to proceed with caution in the first scene where poachers kill elephants and saw off their tusks. More disturbing is the murder of the teen leads' parents -- a main character sees them after they are shot and dynamites the murderers' cars. As the main characters flee for their lives (and are shot at more than once) they learn to work together to survive and deal with their loss. Nonnie is a strong teen character girls will love.
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What's the story?
Nonnie (Reese Witherspoon) lives with her parents in a remote part of Africa where poachers are tracked daily by her father and his friends. When she meets Harry (Ethan Embry), an eye-rolling American boy who'd rather be on a "real" vacation than dragged here by his father, she's prepared to ignore him. But that night he follows Nonnie on a nighttime stroll to meet her bushman friend Xhabbo (Sarel Bok). Xhabbo's had a "tapping" or vision and implores them both to stay the night hidden in a cave. They're awoken by explosions and Nonnie sneaks away to see poachers destroying the house -- and her parents and Harry's father already shot. Nonnie, Harry, and Xhabbo flee for their lives and Nonnie promises Harry they'll escape to the next town. Only, it turns out the next town is clear across the Kalahari desert.
Is it any good?
A FAR OFF PLACE has lots of potential, especially considering the source material (two books by Laurens van der Post). Reese Witherspoon's Nonnie is a great tough-girl character worth following through the desert and Harry is annoying at first as that stereotyped disaffected American teen but really comes around. The action scenes will keep viewers engaged.
But the movie doesn't come together as an epic adventure should. The bad guy is very one-note: very bad, and who knows why? To make lots of money off the ivory, sure, and those kids need to be shot at all costs. And some moments that should be poignant are cheesy instead -- the ending, for starters. And there are some details that needed ironing out. Like how long did they really go without water? Seems like days. And where the heck did Nonnie get a canteen? And how did the dog heal from a big fight in one day? Fans of adventure movies, especially those set in far off places, will still enjoy this one however.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about adventure movies and far off places. What are your favorites? What makes this one thrilling? Does it make you want to visit Africa?
Families can also talk about the loss here -- of the characters' parents and of so many elephants that the bad guy stood to make millions for their tusks. How realistically do Nonnie and Harry deal with both?
Talk about Nonnie. Do you see this type of character often in movies? What makes her admirable, and not-so-admirable?
- In theaters: March 12, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: June 1, 2004
- Cast: Ethan Embry, Reese Witherspoon, Sarel Bok
- Director: Mikael Salomon
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Great girl role models, Wild animals
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: for violence and mild language.
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