The Wild Thornberrys Movie

As of yet, all of the Nickelodeon based animated movies have left much to be desired, which is why The Wild Thornberrys Movie is so surprising. Here is actually a decent movie that kids, and possibly parents, can enjoy. It is better than Jimmy Neutron the few Rugrats movies, and much better than the atrocious Hey Arnold! The difference here is that the movie is actually fun. There is a sense of adventure, a moral message, and most importantly, The Wild Thornberrys Movie does not treat it kiddie audience as stupid. The movie centers on the Thornberry family, who travel around the world filming things for a nature show. Eliza (voiced by Lacey Chabert, Not Another Teen Movie, Tart) is the geeky daughter with glasses, freckles, and braces. Oh yeah, and she can talk to animals. The caveat is that she can never tell anybody her secret, or else it will disappear.

The Thornberrys are in Africa, looking to document a solar eclipse when poachers steal a cheetah cub. Eliza was playing with them, so she feels responsible for the loss. Her grandmother (voiced by Lynn Redgrave, Hansel & Gretel, The Simian Line) ships her off to boarding school in London, and her chimp friend Nigel (voiced by Tom Kane, The Powerpuff Girls Movie, Dracula 2000) tags along. Still overcome with guilt, Eliza makes her way back to Africa to track down the poachers and find the cub. Meanwhile, her teenage sister Debbie (voiced by Danielle Harris, Killer Bud, Em & Me) figures out that Eliza is back and has to go looking for both her and their 'wild child' adopted brother Donnie (voiced by Flea, Goodbye Casanova, Psycho). Donnie is a throwaway character, the type that filmmakers put in to make children laugh. Thankfully, his role is minor.

If anything, her little jaunt to England takes a little too much time, forcing writer Kate Boutilier (Rugrats in Paris) to push back the 'real' story until later in the movie. It's nice to see an animated kid use her brain to try to get to the bottom of things. As she gets closer to finding the poachers, Eliza gets into a surprising amount of danger, and has to use think her way out of them. Eliza also realizes that the poacher's plans are more nefarious than what she initially though. It's also nice that Boutilier and directors Cathy Malkasian and Jeff McGrath can tell a story with a good lesson without forcing the lesson down the throats of the audience, and use a minimum of toilet humor to tell it. There is a lot here about conservation, the importance of responsibility, and family, but it feels extremely natural and part of the story. The animation is sub par, with the aid of lots of computer graphics, but when there is actually a story like there is here, it's not really an issue. Most important of all, The Wild Thornberrys Movie is fun to watch. It may not be a great movie, but it is certainly a nice alternative to most of the other cartoons as of late.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 26 minutes, Rated PG for some action peril.

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