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The Secret of NIMH
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this The Secret of NIMH about a group of intelligent rats who escape from an animal laboratory is suspenseful and rather dark. Several scenes include animal children in peril and a sword fight between rats ends in one death with a little blood. The worst part for sensitive viewers: a flashback shows the animated animals being imprisoned and injected with a needle.
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What's the story?
In THE SECRET OF NIMH, Mrs. Brisby (Frisby in Robert C. O'Brien's prize-winning book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H.) is a widowed mouse living on a farm with her four children, including Timmy, who's bedridden with pneumonia. When they're forced to find a new home, the Great Owl advises Mrs. Brisby to seek the help of Nicodemus, the king of the rat colony. Venturing underground, she discovers an entire civilization of rats that tell her that they revere her late husband Jonathan. Nicodemus explains that Jonathan helped them escape from NIMH -- the National Institute of Mental Health -- when he was a fellow prisoner there and where they were experimented on and injected with super-intelligence drugs. Nicodemus agrees to help Mrs. Brisby move Timmy and gives her a magic amulet. She returns to the farm to find that her home is sinking in the mud and hopes the amulet can really save them.
Is it any good?
Conceived as a return to the lush, "old-fashioned" style of such Disney classics as Pinocchio, this animated movie is an impressive example of cartoon art. It features fully animated character motion and a three-dimensional look. The animation is rich and warm, filled with exquisite detail and color, which brings the dazzling, set pieces to life (including a duel during a lightning storm, and the finale involving the magic amulet).
The voice cast is also excellent, boasting such names as the distinguished British actor Derek Jacobi, veteran character actor John Carradine, the reliably comedic Dom DeLuise, and even a young Shannen Doherty as a mouse. However, parents should be strongly cautioned that the story's tone frequently careens from cheerfulness to grimness, which may frighten children. The Secret of NIMH does not shy away from being downright terrifying at times, most notably during a gruesome flashback showing animals being tortured.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about scariness in movies like The Secret of NIMH. Which parts were the scariest? What made these scenes scary? Would the movie have been more or less scary if it weren't animated?
Who were the heroes in this movie?
Talk about animals in laboratories. Why are they there? How does your family feel about animal testing?
- In theaters: January 1, 1982
- On DVD or streaming: March 23, 1994
- Cast: Derek Jacobi, Dom DeLuise, Elizabeth Hartman
- Director: Don Bluth
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters, Holidays
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- MPAA explanation: all audiences
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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.