Tristan & Isolde

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Tristan & Isolde Movie Poster Image
Busy plot and swordplay upstage the chaste romance.
  • NR
  • 2010
  • 79 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

An introduction to the legend of Tristan and Isolde (star-crossed Celtic lovers in a romantic triangle with their king), with major changes for family viewing.

Positive Messages

A good king makes every effort to avoid war, using diplomacy as a means to overcome differences. Promotes the magical power of love.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Naive, brash hero makes mistakes, but learns valuable lessons about telling the truth, standing up for right, and listening to those who have his best interests at heart. Villains are mean-spirited, power-hungry, and suffer the consequences of their treachery. Isolde, a princess, is a healer who is admired for her talents as well as her beauty.

Violence & Scariness

Conventional swashbuckling action. The hero fights: a roaring dragon in his fiery lair, a giant, a man-eating plant, and the malicious advisors to the good king. There are sword fights, dangerous falls, a huge boulder launched as a weapon, stabbings, and poisonings. Mild injuries, quick recoveries; villains die. Preparations are made to burn Tristan at the stake, but he is rescued in the nick of time.

Sexy Stuff

A few romantic kisses. Tristan is momentarily embarrassed when he wakes up in the care of a female healer and realizes he is naked under a blanket.

Language

One "damn" and one "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine is served at a celebratory dinner. A servant secretly pours a love potion into two of the glasses.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tristan & Isolde is an action-packed animated film (made in France, dubbed into English) where the heroic Tristan is forced to fight multiple battles against overpowering enemies. It's all cartoon-style derring-do as Tristan is threatened by swords, knives, poison, fire, magic, and his own recklessness. For kids who understand the fantastical, there's nothing truly scary or sad. The story is complex; even with the help of a whimsical narrator it may be difficult for kids to keep up with the numerous kings, queens, castles, and villains. With its perfunctory love story and happy ending, the film bears little resemblance to the tragic romance and cautionary tale of the Celtic legend.

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What's the story?

Hoping to prove his worthiness, earn knighthood, and avoid an arranged marriage, young Tristan (voiced by Louis Wright) sets out to slay a giant and save the children of his father's kingdom from slavery. His bravery and skill (with help from a magical wood sprite and a fairy) lead him to his uncle's palace where he falls in love with the beautiful Princess Isolde (Ciara Barker). Tristan is called upon again to save a kingdom -- this time from a terrible dragon. More adventures follow as Isolde's father sends the newly-knighted Sir Tristan to negotiate a truce with a warring realm. Ultimately, the giant and the dragon prove to be far less dangerous than the king's trusted counselor who wants the throne for himself.

Is it any good?

Stock heroes and villains, a complicated story, and a half-hearted effort to provide the traditional "quirky" comic sidekicks don't add up to much. The animation is ordinary as well.

The actual legend of TRISTAN & ISOLDE is tragic and very different from this offering -- it's been seriously undertaken by authors (i.e., Shakespeare) and composers (i.e., Richard Wagner) over centuries. Other than having a recognizable title, it isn't clear what motivated the filmmakers to make this movie and then be forced to venture so far from the original source material.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Tristan grows up over course of the movie. What, if anything, does he learn?

  • Puck, the wood-sprite, and Teazle, the fairy, are traditional pals for Tristan. How are they important to the story? Think of other movies you've seen that have "sidekicks" traveling with the hero -- what do they all have in common?

  • Fairy tales have existed for thousands of years. Why do you think kids (and grown ups!) like them so much?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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