A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Khumba is a South African animation feature about a zebra born without all his stripes. The movie has a positive message about finding your place even when you feel like an outsider. There's some violence (a character is crushed by rocks, a mother dies of sickness) and language ("ass," "dumb," "lame brains"), but ultimately there's a feel-good ending.
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What's the story?
KHUMBA is the tale of a tight-knit herd of zebras that live protected from outside predators. When the alpha zebra's mate gives birth to a baby boy named Khumba (voiced by Jake T. Austin), it's apparent he's no ordinary zebra: His rump half is all white, unlike the rest of the beautifully striped zebras in the herd. The superstitious zebras consider Khumba's lack of stripes to be an omen, so when a drought falls upon the land shortly after his birth, the zebras all not-so-secretly blame young Khumba. As Khumba grows up, his one adamant supporter is his mother, so when she dies, he leaves the safety of the habitat in search of water and to escape his sadness. Joining him on his journey are two other outcasts: nurturing wildebeest Mama V (Loretta Devine) and high-strung ostrich Bradley (Richard E. Grant).
Is it any good?
Kids who like animal films should enjoy this straight-to-DVD release. With the exception of the masterful Studio Ghibli productions, it's always difficult to judge foreign animated films on the same level as American-produced ones, because our animation studios tend to have higher budgets and greater resources. But this sophomore feature from South Africa's Triggerfish Animation is enjoyable and sweet, although some of the language is surprisingly strong for a kiddie flick. Khumba's story will resonate with any kid who has ever felt different, and even very young viewers will understand why he feels like an outsider in his own home.
Although the movie's not exactly The Lion King, there are some similarities in Khumba's themes and motifs. Both films follow an heir who feels guilty about something bad happening, a dead parent, and a period of escape when the main character comes into his own with the help of two unlikely friends. Devine and Grant are amusing as the wildebeest and ostrich that team up with Khumba once he's outside the zebra commune in search of water. Liam Neeson is naturally formidable-sounding as Phango, the zebra-hungry leopard.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about animal movies. Why are they so popular? What are your favorite animal movies?
Why does Khumba feel like an outsider in his own community? How could the other zebras have helped him feel better about himself?
What do you think the movie is saying about judging others because of their differences?
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