A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film brings up some thorny ethical questions regarding animal care and animal rights, particularly in terms of raising wild animals in captivity. You'll also hear some vivid descriptions of elephant violence against humans -- in one case, an attack results in a caretaker's death -- but won't see anything graphic (although there is a brief montage of elephant rampages).
What's the story?
After raising his elephant "child" Flora practically from birth, a weary but loving circus caretaker concludes that the animal deserves a better life than he can currently give her. Thus begins a multi-year search for a permanent home that takes him to Africa, a Miami zoo, and a wooded elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. In the end, her story is that of ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT.
Is it any good?
One Lucky Elephant might be too heavy for younger kids. But is an effective vehicle for discussion about the fates of wild animals raised in captivity -- whether they grow up to live in circuses, zoos, private homes, or animal sanctuaries -- that's presented in a thoughtful and generally unbiased way. The filmmaker's choice to let the footage speak for itself without the aid of excessive text or narration also allows viewers to draw their own conclusions about the motivations of the characters in play and the weighty question of wild animal care.
Flora's lifelong caretaker, David Balding, isn't portrayed as a bad man -- quite the opposite, as he's a truly loving and concerned animal parent. Yet he repeatedly expresses regret that he might have made mistakes in the way he raised Flora, mirroring the way any parent might feel about a now-grown child who's begun acting out. The film's ending is equally ambiguous in terms of whether David was "right" or "wrong," leaving you, the viewer, to decide for yourself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ethics of raising wild animals in captivity and whether it's really possible for them to become domesticated pets. What are the downsides of taking an animal out of its native habitat? What are the dangers associated with caring for an animal that was born in the wild?
What are the messages of this movie? Do you think the filmmakers want you to come out with a specific viewpoint in the end?
Does Flora get a happy ending? What do you think?
For kids who love animals
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.