Tales of the Riverbank

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Tales of the Riverbank Movie Poster Image
Clever rodent romp resolves conflict with cartoonish action.
  • G
  • 2008
  • 83 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Not specifically educational, but kids will learn a bit about environmentalism, plus some positive messages about friendship and bravery.

Positive Messages

Tales of the Riverbank reinforces multiple positive themes -- friendship, courage, environmentalism, and the triumph of the underdog, particularly against the forces of capitalism and pollution, but it solves its ultimate conflict through tongue-in-cheek violence in the style of a blockbuster action flick.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The furry creatures featured throughout the film are largely a friendly and devoted, if squabbling, bunch. 

Violence & Scariness

The film is full of animals in peril, but always to comic effect, devoid of scariness or emotional intensity. Scenes include dodging falling rock, avoiding crashing vehicles, engaging a band of enemy ferrets with explosives, and guerrilla warfare tactics. In one explicit scene, a ferret is killed by molten marmalade lava; in another, a central character crashes his plane into a lake, but survives.

Sexy Stuff

A sassy, Southern-drawling damsel-in-distress of a mouse flirts with a rat, and drops a smidge of sexual innuendo when she asks him to show her how much chug he's got. Later, she pulls a Lauren Bacall and asks if her cohorts know how to blow up a hot air balloon? "Just put your lips together and..." A mouse and a rat nuzzle.


The owl narrator frequently refers to many of the animals in his tale as stupid, but said in a British accent, it almost sounds complimentary. There is the occasional punned curse, such as "that son of a fish."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

No drinking, drugs, or smoking appear, but there is alcohol present in one scene: The furry creatures are shown to an underground "Fun Room" designed as a bar, with mixed drinks on tables and a full bar as part of the setting. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tales of the Riverbank is a clever, family-friendly British tale of animal adventure and rescue with a soft spot for the underdog, but it resolves its essential conflict through violence, albeit slapstick, cartoonish violence that never feels scary or emotionally intense. The film mimics the blockbuster action of buddy war flicks such as Apocalypse Now -- but its grown-up reference points are likely to fly right over the heads of young children. 

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What's the story?

In a tale told by an owl (voiced by Stephen Fry), we learn that endless rain has flooded a riverbank, sending three (animatronic) furry friends -- Hammy the Hamster, Roderick the Rat (Steve Coogan), and GP (Jim Broadbent) -- and a growing posse of animal friends in search of their displaced homes. Along the way, the adventure becomes the rescue of a kidnapped mouse named Sonia, a test of friendship and wills, and a battle against the evil Fat Cats, who are polluting the environment with their corporation WMDC -- the Waffles Marmalade Doughnut Corporation.

Is it any good?

Based on the long-running Canadian children's TV series, this scrappy British film adaptation manages to mix high and low comedy, and should appeal to multiple generations. The animatronic puppets are silly looking enough to qualify as camp, and the sustained peril they face and witty jokes are absurdly funny.

Kids will love watching furry creatures navigate an astonishing number of modes of transportation and natural disasters, even if the allusions are over their head, while parents will enjoy a flick for kids smart enough to incorporate sly nods to pop culture references only they can get -- a mouse doing her best Lauren Bacall, and the co-opted Apocalypse Now reference, "I love the smell of fresh marmalade in the morning." An excellent vocal cast doesn't hurt either.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the environment. The characters in Tales of the Riverbank care a lot about their home environment. What can you do to help keep the rivers and lakes in your city clean?

  • The animals visit the circus in the film. Do you think animals are treated fairly in the circus? What might be a good way to help the animals who are not treated well?

  • With a parent, visit the web to discuss efforts by people or groups to reduce pollution in your neighborhood, town, or city.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy and adventure

Themes & Topics

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