A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Themes of family, friendship, and overcoming grief and adversity.
Positive Role Models
Ron and Sistine try to do the right thing, whether it's stopping bullies or trying to figure out what to do with a tiger being held in a small cage. The adults featured positively -- Ron's mother, hotel maid Willie May, and the art teacher -- engage with the children, see them for what they're capable of, and offer advice or guidance by talking with kids rather than talking down to or being dismissive of them. Characters of faith are portrayed positively.
Principal cast includes both Black and White actors. Ron is a sensitive, artistic boy who's trying to please his father, who believes males shouldn't show emotions.
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Violence & Scariness
A gun is used to kill. Bullying, with slapping. Physical fighting. Negative character always carries a gun. Characters are coping with grief over lost loved ones. (Spoiler alert) An animal is harmed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kiss on the cheek.
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Insulting/harsh language includes "damn you," "dummy," "stupid," and "worthless." Multiple uses of "God," "Lord," and "Jesus" as exclamations.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Tiger Rising is a sometimes-intense family drama adapted from Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo's National Book Award finalist, produced by and starring Queen Latifah. The story follows two fifth graders who've recently moved to a small Florida town: Rob (Christian Convery), a White boy whose mother passed away and whose father is running from his grief, and Sistine (Madalen Mills), a Black girl from Philadelphia whose parents are divorcing and whose mother moved home. Rob is told not to cry or talk about his late mother, and Sistine is full of rage over her situation, sure her dad will come get her any day. The new friends find a caged tiger in the woods, and it serves as a metaphor for the bottled-up emotions both the kids and Rob's dad are experiencing. Loss is sad, and the movie's message is that it's OK to feel that way. However, the ending is (spoiler alert) very harsh -- it involves a gun being used to kill -- and is likely to upset kids (and likely some adults, too). Rob and Sistine are both bullied at school via taunts and schoolyard fights. This isn't a faith-based film, but characters of faith are portrayed positively. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
While great stories are always great, good books don't always translate into good movies -- and that's the case here. The Tiger Rising's problems are many, starting with the pacing. The story moves as slowly and suffocatingly as a humid Florida summer day. First-time feature director Ray Giarratana uses elements that, in theory, should have perked things up: Rob's imagination runs wild, his drawings and wood sculptures coming to life. Bullies are constantly jabbing and poking, but Sistine punches back (or first, depending on how you look at it). And, of course, there's a tiger! Giarratana is an established special-effects supervisor (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Captain America: Civil War), and while his skills are put to great use in the form of the absolutely flawless CGI tiger, animations, and rich photography and lighting, the film lacks energy. Most of the characters are depressed, and that's what comes through on screen.
The acting is distractingly inconsistent. Dennis Quaid's Beauchamp -- the nasty, impatient owner of a seedy motel -- is just right for a kids' move villain: He's someone to fear, but we can also see his ridiculousness and unhappiness. Producer Queen Latifah plays motel maid Willie May with the relatable kindness present in most of her film characterizations. These two stand in sharp contrast to the kids who carry the weight of the dialogue. Convery and Mills aren't rookies, but their performances come off as act-y and unbelievable, something that could've been remedied by stronger direction and tighter editing. The biggest problem, though, is that the ending is so harsh. It's outrageous and upsetting and is followed by a hasty resolution in the form of voiceover that tries to tie a bow on things and say, "And so they all lived happily ever after, OKAY?!" It's the kind of ending where your jaw is on the floor, aghast that this is a kids' film. DiCamillo (who's also the author of previous movie fodder books Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Desperaux) is known as a wordsmith, crafting doses of reality in beautifully turned phrases and authentic characters, a reliable phenom in the world of children's fiction authors. But this heartbreaking story is best left on the page.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.