A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Thunder and the House of Magic is an animated adventure about an abandoned cat who finds a new family in the home of an elderly magician. The movie has a lot that will appeal to little kids -- talking animals, silly slapstick humor, and magic tricks. There's a reference to fine wine that kids won't get, plus a couple of insults and uses of "damn," as well as physical humor, some peril, chase sequences, and one angry allergic man who tries to kill a cat with a gun. And some kids may feel sad about Thunder's initial abandonment. But otherwise, this is a good pick for families with younger children; it's got a particularly endearing theme of inter-generational friendship and acceptance that even kindergarten-aged kids will understand.
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What's the story?
THUNDER AND THE HOUSE OF MAGIC follows an orange tabby cat (voiced by Murray Blue) who's been cold-heartedly abandoned in the middle of the street. Unsure what to do, he winds up at an old, supposedly haunted mansion that's actually the home of a kindly retired magician, Lawrence (Doug Stone), who lives with his pets and a host of whimsical toys that don't speak but do move. Although the elder magician's rabbit, Jack (George Babbit), and mouse, Maggie (Shanelle Gray), want the cat to leave, Lawrence decides to add him to the family and names him Thunder (Murray Blue). When Lawrence is hurt after a bicycle accident, his greedy nephew (Grant George), a real estate agent, decides to sell the mansion while his uncle is hospitalized. It's up to Thunder to convince Lawrence's crew of resident friends to band together and scare potential buyers off the property.
Is it any good?
This is one of those surprisingly entertaining adventures that isn't produced by one of the major animation studios. It's rare to find a lower-budget animated film that's got such a strong story, theatrical-caliber animation, and valuable messages. At first Thunder's story is heartbreaking -- how could anyone abandon their cat? But in language even young kids can understand, Lawrence explains how, when people lose jobs and homes, they can't always take care of their pets anymore. Thunder's story is similar to all fictional orphans -- they want a home, a place to belong, a family. Lawrence's house is magic because it provides just that for a motley crew of pets and magical little toys.
The movie's subplots are divided between Daniel the real estate agent trying -- and failing -- to get anyone to seriously consider the house and Lawrence befriending two children at the hospital. As much fun as kids will have with the slapstick, Home Alone-like humor of the pets outsmarting the selfish nephew, parents will appreciate the scenes between Lawrence and his two new friends, themselves bored patients looking to make a new friend. There's something remarkably touching about inter-generational friendships, whether it's Dumbledore and Harry, Hugo and Georges, or Carl and Russell. Thunder and the House of Magic may not be quite as unforgettable as Harry Potter, Hugo, or Up, but it's still an enchanting little film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why talking animals are so appealing. Why do so many kids' movies like Thunder and the House of Magic follow animal main characters?
What are some other movies that promote inter-generational friendship? Why is it important for kids to realize that older grandparent-aged people have something to offer?
Thunder is an "underdog" character because he's an orphan. Do you find yourself rooting more for orphans than for characters who have intact families? Is it scary to portray characters -- even animals -- who've been abandoned or have lost their parents?
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