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The Wild Thornberry’s Movie (2003)

Another Kaleidoscope big screen spin-off from the popular cartoon series, The Wild Thornberry’s Movie gets straight into the thick of things by giving the viewer of a concise précis of events leading to the film. Our heroine, the dentally challenged but pluckily environmentally aware Eliza, can talk to the animals following a gift from a benevolent shamen. The catch is she’ll lose the gift if she blabs about it to anyone (except the animals of course… there wouldn’t be much point otherwise!). Eliza’s bizarre American/English hybrid family of Colonial throwbacks, a moody elder sister and a toddler with a Tarzan complex are on safari to make wildlife documentaries. One day disaster strikes as one of Eliza’s playmates, a cheetah cub, is snatched by poachers whose overall plan is even more sinister. How can Eliza save her furry chum, especially when Grandma has shipped her (and unbeknownst to all and sundry her errant chimpanzee chum Darwin) to an English boarding school for her frequently errant behaviour?

With frequently exhilarating chase sequences, a quirky sense of design and child friendly “gross” animal-bottom bits this will keep many a nipper happy. There’s a good environmental message, a couple of facts and a western-world-music friendly soundtrack of the likes of Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. All laudable stuff and some of the animation is quite superb, this improved by the suitably eclectic voice talents on show. Unfortunately the ambition in the design and execution is not matched by the film as a whole – the boarding school sequence seems like plot padding which, while eminently watchable never really connects. The same problems niggled The Rug Rats Movie, problems resolved in the sequel Rug Rats In Paris – a more roundly anarchic film that appealed as much to adults with its barrage of post-modern references as it did to children. In short: you could do a lot worse than this but fingers crossed that the inevitable sequel (or the touted Rug Rats/Wild Thornberry’s crossover) will appeal to a broader age range.