The Wild Thornberrys Movie
By Nell Minow,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Exciting adventure in Africa for animal-loving TV family.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
In The Wild Thornberrys Movie, kids will be introduced to interesting scientific phenomena: elephant migration, an eclipse, the character of a friendly tribal village, and some common behavior shared by humans and animals. They'll also learn about the poaching of wild animals. The Wild Thornberrys series is affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation. Easy and inclusive ethnic diversity contributes to the overall viewing experience.
Stresses that it's important not to break parents' rules; they are in place for good reason. The film also promotes: taking responsibility for one's actions, caring for the environment, and doing the right thing even when it's scary. The film also champions recognizing our own "gifts," or talents; they, too, are in place for good reason.
Positive Role Models
The Thornberry parents are ideal: They encourage independence, respect their children's differences, and are resourceful, honest, and protective. African figures of authority are smart and fair. Tribal members are characterized as wise, caring, and generous, even though they speak a language different from the Thornberrys. Female characters are shown as equal to their male counterparts in every way.
Violence & Scariness
Eliza, the 12-year-old heroine, is in danger on multiple occasions: hanging from a helicopter ladder, caught in a rushing river, captured by menacing villains, falling from the sky onto a moving vehicle, trying to rescue a wounded rhino, and caught in an elephant stampede. Other suspenseful moments include: a writhing snake, a tornado, a vehicle crashing into a tree, and a gang of kids going over a waterfall.
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A horse farts. "Bunny poop" is mentioned.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this full-length, animated theatrical movie (based on the Nickelodeon TV series) with its humor, strong messages, suspense, and inspiring facts about nature and animals will appeal to both kids and parents. The filmmakers show great respect for creatures in the wild, different cultures and people, the study of science, and a close-knit family made up of distinctive individuals. Set in Africa, the movie has some suspenseful scenes that may be scary for the very youngest or most sensitive kids. Family members and/or animals are in danger in a number of action sequences: a stampede, confrontations with gun-toting poachers, falls from great heights, rushing waters carrying kids over steep waterfalls, and more. There are no serious consequences, and everything is resolved humanely.
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Where to Watch
Based on 3 parent reviews
Entertaining and excellent story for kids and adults, with a positive message, values, and exceptional role models
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What's the Story?
In this feature-length adventure, the Wild Thornberrys of the TV series set off to Africa to film a nature documentary. The family consists of relentlessly cheerful father Nigel (voice of Tim Curry), efficient but affectionate mom Marianne (voice of Jodi Carlisle), and their daughter, Eliza (voice of Lacy Chabert), a kind of Dr. Dolittle in braids and braces who understands and communicates in animal language. Also along are typical teen sister Debbie, pet chimpanzee Darwin (voice of Tom Kane), who is Eliza's best friend, and adopted toddler Donnie (voice of rock star Flea). In Africa, Eliza is playing with some cheetah cubs when one is snatched via helicopter by a poacher. Eliza risks her life to save the cub, but is knocked to the ground when the poacher cuts the rope ladder. Her parents, worried for her safety, send her to England to boarding school and Darwin goes with her by hiding in her suitcase. But she and Darwin return to Africa when she learns that the poachers are after a herd of elephants. It's up to Eliza to save the day, and it will require great courage and the willingness to sacrifice anything, even her ability to talk to animals.
Is It Any Good?
THE WILD THORNBERRYS MOVIE is wholesome enough to appeal to parents and funny enough to appeal to kids. The series is affiliated with the conservation group the National Wildlife Federation and so occasionally there are nuggets of nature facts thrown in to add a little substance. Eliza is in the grand tradition of adventuresome pre-adolescent fictional heroines like Alice, Pippi, Dorothy, and Pollyanna. She is brave, smart, loyal, and empathetic. She has good judgment most of the time, but when she doesn't, she learns from her mistakes.
The voice talent is first-rate, including Rupert Everett, Lynn Redgrave, Marisa Tomei, and Alfre Woodward. The action sequences are handled well and there are some witty moments, as when Debbie tries to explain to her father that she is trying to be sarcastic. It is nothing more than a supersized version of the television series, but it never pretends to be anything more and is fun for kids and parents alike.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how the movie compares with the TV series. Is it as good or better in full-length film form?
Why do Eliza and Debbie feel so differently about the animals?
Families may want to discuss the issue of poachers going after wildlife. Kids: Do you see why Eliza would risk her life to save a cheetah cub?
- In theaters: December 20, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: April 1, 2003
- Cast: Jodi Carlisle, Lacey Chabert, Tom Kane
- Directors: Cathy Malkasian, Jeff McGrath
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Wild Animals
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some adventure peril
- Last updated: May 25, 2023
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.
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