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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tarzan is an animated 2013 version of the enduring Tarzan tale, not to be confused with Disney's Tarzan. It has several scary moments, including when a baby gorilla falls off a cliff to its death and when a family huddles in fear as their helicopter loses altitude, but there is no blood. There is kicking, punching, and roaring. Clayton threatens Jane verbally and aims his gun at her and Tarzan. Clayton shoots at Tarzan. Tarzan and Clayton fight. Clayton escapes as the ground shudders from an earthquake, but Tarzan hurls a boulder that hits Clayton's midair copter. The crash is not shown. Jane falls into raging rapids, and Tarzan saves her. A crocodile lunges for Jane, but Tarzan wrestles him away. A scary dragon-headed vine pulls Tarzan underwater and threatens to devour Jane. The jungle's animals rally to Tarzan's aid against Clayton and his armed men. Several bad guys seem to die. Tarzan's gorilla mother runs to defend him and gets shot but she recovers. As both an adolescent and an adult, Tarzan runs around in a loincloth, the rest of his chiseled body visible. Some bad guys look at Jane with what seems to be lust.
What's the story?
Representing his family's energy company, Greystoke is searching the African wilds for a 70-million-year-old meteor said to contain limitless energy. The meteor's seemingly magical powers inject an element of mysticism into the story. The search sets off a series of violent natural reactions that result in the downing of the helicopter carrying Greystoke, his wife, and their small son, J.J. The boy, who liked to call himself TARZAN (Kellan Lutz) while playing in the jungle, is discovered soon after by a silverback gorilla mom mourning the recent loss of her baby, and she raises the boy as her own. Nearly 20 years later, Greystoke Industries' rapacious new leader, Clayton, goes back to look for the meteor, using Jane, a naïve advocate of Africa's natural resources, as his cover. She falls for Tarzan, who helps her defeat Clayton and his evil army.
Is it any good?
Between beautiful animation and a literate script, this is a lot of fun and something parents and kids could watch and enjoy together. The logical flow gets a bit murky when the evil Clayton suddenly relaunches the search for the powerful meteor after having abandoned the project for 15 years. And Jane's decision to stay in the jungle with Tarzan and a bunch of silverback in-laws may also strain credulity and raise questions among curious children. But mostly Tarzan is a visual treat that poses good against evil, with some magic thrown in.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the real-life 19th-century origins of the Tarzan-like story that inspired Edgar Rice Burroughs to write his series of Tarzan novels and inspired filmmakers to make so many movies. What about the story do you think has made it continue to interest so many generations of readers and viewers?
The story depends on an acceptance that great apes have sophisticated social organizations, deep relationships, and an embedded sense of right and wrong. Families may want to look at some of the research that has documented these observations.
Which aspects of the story seem as if they could have happened, and which seem magical or fantastical? For example, do you think a meteor of limitless power exists? Do you think Tarzan could have learned English so quickly after not speaking it for 15 years?
- In theaters: May 23, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: February 10, 2015
- Cast: Kellan Lutz, Spencer Locke, Jason Hildebrandt
- Director: Reinhard Klooss
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: for action violence, peril/ frightening images, mild language and thematic elements
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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.