The Wishmas Tree

Movie review by
Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media
The Wishmas Tree Movie Poster Image
Animated eco-fable has sweet siblings, icky bits, scares.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 90 minutes

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

Educational Value

The movie can spark discussion about real-life threats to life on Earth, from global warming to extinction.

Positive Messages

The movie carries a strong message about caring for the environment, community, and progress. Family relationships are depicted as warm, caring, and open. Characters learn from their mistakes, communicate well, and work together. Positive environmental messages.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kerry is a possum who lives in a safe, steady community but yearns for adventure. She faces problems with an open mind, enthusiastically, and without fear. Early in the movie she runs away from home without telling her family where she's going. Kerry's older sister, Petra, looks out for her and is understanding and kind. The guide on the sisters' quest is Yarra, a friendly, patient, elderly lizard.

Violence & Scariness

Mostly mild cartoon violence but some potentially scary moments. A possum whips bears with its tail. Characters have snowball fights, have their toes stamped on, and are threatened with spears. Cuddly bears turn into an intimidating hostile group with big claws. A wolf dies but is resurrected when possessed by the extinction spirit, joining a pack of red-eyed wolves that tracks the heroes. A demonic cloud provides some intense moments. A jump scare where a character wakes up and has red eyes. Long scene in which a character appears to have died.

Sexy Stuff
Language

Language includes "fart," "stupid," and "poo." Some gross-out humor such as popping warts and bogeys.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Wishmas Tree is an Australian animated movie with an ecological message and some moments of mild peril. The main baddie is "Extinction," which manifests as a huge red-eyed cloud demon that possesses animals, which could be scary for young children. The movie touches on real-life threats, such as global warming, which could start a conversation with older children. Feeling confined by the safety of her town, young ringtail possum Kerry (Miranda Tapsell) wishes to see "The Wild." She gets her wish when she has to save the world from a dire fate -- this involves running away from home without telling her parents. Characters learn from their mistakes and Kerry's relationship with sister Petra (Kate Murphy) is open, warm, and based on good communication. The movie has cartoon violence and some mildly scary moments, including a jump scare, and a scene in which a wolf is resurrected as a demonic version of itself. Humor and language are regularly body-based, with farts, popped warts, and bogeys aiming for the gross-out factor. The movie's positive messages include taking responsibility for actions, looking after all animals equally, strong communication, and teamwork.

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What's the story?

In THE WISHMAS TREE's safe and cozy town, a possum's thirst for adventure threatens her entire world, forcing her to set off into "The Wild" to put things right.

Is it any good?

With a young upstart looking for adventure and an animal utopia, the debut movie from director Ricard Cussó has familiar themes to other recent animated adventures such as Moana and Zootopia. But hanging over proceedings is a big red shadow of doom -- with extinction itself threatening all life. As the depiction is relatively abstract (a big, angry red-eyed cloud), this can be factored into a viewing as much, or as little, as wanted -- very young children will be able to watch without any of the story spilling out into their world. So with this successfully layered on top, the work on the ground is given extra heft, as the two likable possums -- Kerry (Miranda Tapsell) and Petra (Kate Murphy) -- make their way to find the second wishing tree and save the world. Once there, the movie pushes its eco message further, flying the flag for progressive community building. 

Keeping the movie grounded under its big messages is a big dollop of icky humor -- pus, snot, and stinky mud. When a toads' warts are popped and cascade goo, the distinct backgrounds serve to remind us that life can be both beautiful and stomach-churning, occasionally at the same time. Visually it's great, bar an over reliance on extreme focus shifts in some scenes. This technique is rarely a storytelling tool, occasionally leaving the movie with a tech demo feel. As well as its positive eco message, the movie excels with its sibling relationships. When it needs to, the movie slows down to let Kerry and Paula discuss complex emotions about responsibility, sibling relationships, and friendship in a way that's never forced or clunky. With a central message that we need to take care of the world and be kind to each other, The Wishmas Tree has a warm heart -- albeit one sometimes covered in all manner of smelly goo.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the environmental messages in The Wishmas TreeWhat messages did you take from the movie? What can we do in real life to help stop climate change? What other movies teach us about climate change?

  • Did you find any of the more scary scenes too extreme for a movie like this? Which ones in particular? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Talk about the relationship between sisters Kerry and Petra. How does communication help them maintain a good relationship? Talk about your own relationships with your siblings? How do they compare to Kerry and Petra's?

Movie details

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