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Trouble at Timpetill

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Trouble at Timpetill Movie Poster Image
Adventure tale with kids in charge has violence, bullying.
  • NR
  • 2008
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Loving parents raise considerate children. Kids of all ages can take on more responsibility than they're given credit for, and can be relied on to care for each other. There's a message of treating others as you would like to be treated.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The adults and kids themselves embody positive and negative characteristics. Some are bullies and mean or violent. Others are kind and benevolent, even at expense to themselves. Adults in the town make the collective decision to abandon their kids for a day to scare them into behaving better.

Violence

Brawls between pairs as well as small and large groups of kids involve slapping, punching, kicking, hitting with bats, and even a rifle shot. A father slaps his son, and the son in turn bullies his sister. A man says kids only understand "a good beating." A boy squeezes a classmate's guinea pig as a threat. Kids solve another child's painful tooth, ostensibly by yanking it out, though this isn't shown on screen and is played for comedy. Some adults, like an abusive father and a harsh schoolteacher, could frighten younger viewers.

Sex

Mild flirtation among some adults as well as between kids. Two young kids share a quick kiss.  

Language

Insults between kids like "fatty," "four eyes," "idiot," "stupid."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

When children take over the town, the "bad" kids invade a bar and can be seen drinking what appears to be alcohol and smoking cigars. When the adults come back, they party in the same bar. The local priest smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Trouble at Timpetill has some positive messages about the innate resilience and goodness of kids, but it also has quite a lot of child-on-child violence. Kids bully each other and get into increasingly serious fights, culminating in an all-out, all-town brawl involving punching, kicking, hitting with bats, shooting potatoes and a guinea pig out of makeshift cannons, and ultimately one young child getting shot by another. The idea is to root for one group over the other, but impressionable viewers may be impacted by seeing the "good" kids knocking out other children with planks of wood and pots and pans. Some adults, like an abusive father and a harsh schoolteacher, could also frighten younger viewers. Two young kids share a quick kiss. Insults between kids like "fatty," "four eyes," "idiot," "stupid." When children take over the town, the "bad" kids invade a bar and can be seen drinking what appears to be alcohol and smoking cigars. When the adults come back, they party in the same bar.

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What's the story?

The adults of the titular town in TROUBLE AT TIMPETILL are fed up with the mischievousness of their kids and decide to abandon them for a day to teach them a lesson. But when they're held up in the countryside, one day turns into several. The kids go from scared to empowered as they care for each other and eventually take over the everyday tasks of the town. One group of bad seeds decides to celebrate the lack of supervision by ransacking a toy store, taking over the town bar, and wreaking havoc in the lives of the other kids. Things get messy when the two kid groups face off in a fight to determine who's in charge.

Is it any good?

Based on a classic children's book, the film lies somewhere between Home Alone and Lord of the Flies. Trouble at Timpetill is set in an idyllic European hamlet in an unspecified past era when kids had the freedom (and the lack of screens) to roam the streets together making mischief and having fun. Their communalism and inventiveness are delightful to behold, and the film is at its best when the kids come together to fill the adult roles in town, from cooking to delivering mail to investigating crimes to recording and announcing the news.

Trouble has some uneven patches, like the come-and-go use of animation and special effects, and it skips over showing key parts of the adults' adventure, which seems entirely constructed to justify the kids' story (and a cameo by legendary actor Gerard Depardieu). But the cast of kids are engaging, and they fully embody their individual characters' idiosyncrasies. The portrayal of the good kids versus the bad kids might feel a bit too stereotyped, and some of the fights too violent for young viewers, but Trouble is still a fun and out-of-the-norm family film.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the premise of Trouble at Timpetill. Can you imagine all the adults abandoning a small town and leaving kids to fend for themselves? Is it supposed to be realistic? Why or why not?

  • Were the "good" kids always good? Did the "bad" kids show any redeeming qualities?

  • Have you seen other movies or read other books where kids are left in charge of themselves? How does this story compare?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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