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 straight-to-DVD title is based on The Three Investigators book series created by Robert Arthur Jr. The three exceedingly intelligent boys are tween-age but manage to land themselves in rather adult dangers when they travel to South Africa. Guns are drawn and pointed menacingly, and there's a kidnapping, a chase over cliffs on paragliders, and a near-miss with a car. The scares may be the bigger deal for kids, though, with a cave haunted by a mysterious beast (who scratches victims), and the boys getting trapped in a small tomb that almost squashes them (there's talk of "we might die here"). Viewers will find positive messages about the importance of finding the truth and about how overcoming racial divides can have some truly positive consequences.
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What's the story?
After successfully solving the Case of the Missing Rembrandt, the exhausted tween investigators -- Pete (Nick Price), Jupiter (Chancellor Miller), and Bob (Cameron Monaghan) -- are ready for some R and R. Just in time Pete's dad (Nigel Whitmey) invites them all to South Africa where he's working on a job site. But it's not any job site, they find out. It's cursed Skeleton Island, where a mysterious cave dweller is scratching victims' necks. When the wrong man is apprehended for the crime, the three investigators vow to help his daughter Chris (Naima Sebe) find the real culprit. Their vacation can wait, especially when a painting is found that links Chris' family to a sacred tomb on the island, one said to hold a priceless treasure and the untold full story of centuries-old forbidden love. Now things are getting interesting.
Is it any good?
THE THREE INVESTIGATORS IN THE SECRET OF SKELETON ISLAND is an entertaining story about kid sleuths. Here's what kids will want to know first: Is there a really cool secret hangout? Yes, hidden in a junk yard with a trap-door chair. Second, do they have cool gadgets? Yes, but only one of note: an itching powder gun. And lastly, are there any of the following in this story: booby traps, complex riddles to solve in perilous situations, or skeletons in haunted places? Yes, yes, and yes.
So all the elements seem to be in order. Why is this straight-to-DVD fare? Fans of the classic books will complain that the kids here just aren't the same quirky characters they have come to love. In fact, the characters aren't that well developed; if this is the first in the movie series, even if it's not the first book, this should have been a priority. Instead they spend time developing awkward tween romances and splicing in outlandish action sequences. The real story -- and the great characters at its heart -- is in there somewhere, and the focus deserved to be there.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about South Africa. What do kids know about the history of racial tension there? How does this modern story reflect what has changed? And stayed the same?
What are your favorite mysteries and who are your favorite mystery solvers? Are they always kids?
What makes a good sleuth? How do the three investigators prove that three heads are better than one?
- On DVD or streaming: December 6, 2011
- Cast: Cameron Monaghan, Chancellor Miller, Nick Price
- Director: Florian Baxmeyer
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Book Characters, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: for action and peril, mild language and some smoking.
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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.