Wild Thornberrys Movie (2002) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: Lacey Chabert, Tim Curry, Tom Kane, Danielle Harris, Jodi Carlisle, Flea, Rupert Everett

Directors: Jeff McGrath, Cathy Malkasian

Eliza Thornberry (Lacey Chabert), along with her pigtails, braces and glasses, is an intrepid, adventurous, precocious 12 year-old who has a magical talent that was bestowed on her by a Shaman allowing her to communicate with animals. Very handy to have since Eliza’s living in the middle of the Serengeti Plain of Africa as her parents are wildlife documentary filmmakers and her best friend is Darwin (Tom Kane), a chimpanzee!

However Eliza’s carefree life comes to an abrupt halt when, straying further than she should with Darwin and a cheetah cub in tow, they are spotted by airborne poachers who swoop down and grab the cub then disappear over the horizon despite a desperate and dangerous rescue bid by Akela the cheetah’s mum (Alfre Woodard), Eliza and her family.

This escapade results in Eliza being sent to a boarding school in London under the control of headmistress Mrs Fairgood (Brenda Blethyn). But Eliza’s not alone as Darwin emerges from her luggage having stowed away there during the flight, unbeknownst to her. In a dream the Shaman tells Eliza that the cub is still alive and following her heart, she intuitively knows she must return home to her family to find the cub and stop the poachers.

When Darwin unfortunately but inevitably wreaks havoc at the school Eliza hatches a plan plotting her escape and foiling the authorities she boards a plane, with Darwin in disguise, back to Africa. Returning to her family’s base in the Serengeti Plain, Eliza’s adventures really begin and she takes off in hot pursuit of some devious poachers with the unwitting help of her usually disinterested older teenage sister Debbie (Danielle Harris) and her parents who become embroiled in the escalating pursuit that unfolds.

Despite the seemingly dysfunctional Thornberry family – with Eliza’s somewhat geeky appearance, her eccentric father (Tim Curry), her annoying 4 year-old brother Donnie (Flea) and Debbie who would prefer life in suburbia to the wilds of Africa (doing her nails, going shopping, meeting boys) – it really is a delight to watch. Appealing to all ages the movie will only strengthen its popularity already established with the TV series THE WILD THORNBERRYS. Beautifully animated and accompanied by a very complimentary soundtrack including songs by Paul Simon and Dutch singer Sita, THE WILD THORNBERRYS MOVIE is well worth seeing and leaving the winter blues behind for a while.

4 out of 6 stars