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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Takes a look at the bright colors, sounds, music, and animals associated with Africa, identifying various birds native to the continent (peregrine falcon, weavers, marabou).
Clearly shows the positive results of teamwork, loyalty, a sense of adventure, and living in an inclusive society. Parents learn that they can't protect their offspring by keeping them close and restricted, but must let them "fly."
Positive Role Models
Though the film's hero is initially disobedient, he proves himself to be honorable, courageous, and effective. His dad, who is fearful about his son's growing up, learns about letting go and striking a balance between safety and freedom. One female lead proves to be as brave and resourceful as her male counterparts, though other females tend towards stereotype.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of cartoon action. The chief villain is a scary, toothy monitor lizard who is always threatening and is on an evil quest -- he wants to eat all the eggs in Zambesia. His henchmen are designed more comically, but they, too, assault the heroic bird community. One villainous bird falls to his death as his brother watches. A young falcon hears about the death of his mother who gave her life so that he might live. There are numerous swooping chases, falls, crashes, lots of pushing, shoving, and imprisoning captive innocents. The finale is an extended battle scene as the lizard and his followers attempt to invade Zambezia and the citizens fight them off.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Adventures in Zambezia should appeal to most kids who like animal characters with personality and humor, and a story with some suspense. Set in Africa, the movie introduces bits of the geography, language, and melodies of the continent, as well as many native birds and creatures. Best for kids who can distinguish cartoon violence from real violence, as there's plenty of action (chases, captures, a vicious monitor lizard) to go with the bright, colorful animation and a mostly conventional story. At the heart of the tale is a young peregrine falcon who, in the course of the film, learns about the death of his mother. In addition, one villainous marabou falls to his death as his brother watches. There are lots of positive messages about teamwork, inclusiveness, and growing up. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Though the story isn't terribly original, the storytelling is. Kids will like Kai; they'll root for Zoe, Sekhuru and company; and they'll be moved when Kai and his dad are re-united. Characters are well-defined (even the villains have distinctive personalities), the music and sounds of Africa add charm and a degree of authenticity, and there's enough action to keep adventure-lovers happy.
Going straight to DVD in the US, even with A-list actors, engaging characters, and colorful, upbeat animation, this movie may be overlooked by home viewing families. That would be a shame, because it's a funny movie, with good messages and enthusiastic performances.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.