The Three Investigators in the Secret of Skeleton Island

Movie review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Three Investigators in the Secret of Skeleton Island Movie Poster Image
Tween sleuths find danger and scares in South Africa.
  • PG
  • 2011
  • 91 minutes

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Kids say

age 6+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Finding the truth is of utmost importance to the investigators. And the first lesson of sleuthing is, "see what's right in front of you." There are also messages about overcoming racial divides (the mystery can't be solved until black and white characters work together) and protecting sites of historical and cultural significance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The three investigators are very smart and resourceful. They use their skills to help others and find the truth, but are sometimes reckless. Pete's dad hands them over to a "guide" while he works and doesn't offer much real supervision other than to buy them plane tickets home when he becomes concerned.


The three boys purposely put themselves in danger at the bottom of an elevator shaft as the movie opens; they are inches away from getting squashed. That foreshadows a scene in a tomb where the walls close in and they become almost squashed, then trapped with talk of "we could die in here." Caves are said to be haunted by a scary creature that at first viewers see only flashes of and scratch marks on necks of victims. Guns are pulled and pointed menacingly a few times and a child is held for ransom at gunpoint. A chase over cliffs with paragliders has a few moments where characters almost plummet to their deaths, but they land safely. A car crashes through a shack as the kids flee, and a gun loaded with itching powder hits its unfortunate victim. Two skeletons are shown propped up in a tomb. Talk of parents being lost, either by plane crash or early in life.


A kiss between tweens, some silly talk about where a tween girl will sleep if the three investigators need to share beds, and many mentions of "forbidden lovers" of long ago.


One "damn fool."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One rugged character regularly smokes a cigar.

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.

User Reviews

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Kid, 9 years old October 29, 2012


ok action movie could be scary for little kids.

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mysteries

Themes & Topics

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