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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Wednesday August 14, 2019 



Nature documentary filmmakers Nigel and Marianne Thornberry (voices of Tim Currie and Jodie Carlisle) are in the Serengeti Plain in Africa with daughters Elizabeth (Lacey Chabert) and Debbie (Danielle Harris) and adopted wild child Donnie (Flea). Elizabeth, who has the power to communicate with animals, discovers that ivory poachers Sloan and Bree Blackburn (Rupert Everett and Marisa Tomei) plan to trap thousands of elephants during a solar eclipse. After being sent to a London boarding school, Elizabeth escapes and with mischievous chimpanzee Darwin (Tom Kane) by her side, she returns to Africa to save the elephants and bring the Sloans to justice.†

Review by Richard Kuipers:
A feature spin-off from the animated series produced by kids TV and movie specialists Nickelodeon, The Wild Thornberrys is splendid entertainment for the 8-12 age group and good fun for just about everyone else. Nickelodeonís strong suit is offbeat characters and vivid background detail, both of which stand out strongly in this grand adventure with a good message. Big, expressive heads mounted on little bodies is the Nickelodeon style and the technique makes these colourful personalities leap off the screen.†

I loved the upper-class dad so perfectly voiced by Tim Curry, brattish Valley Girl sister Debbie, who'd rather be hanging around the mall than in Africa - and plucky heroine Elizabeth whose dorky-looking appearance holds a heart of gold and the film's emotional core. The only character I didn't warm to particularly was Elizabeth's chimpanzee sidekick Darwin, whose greek-chorus chatter and penchant for slapstick hijinx is tiresome at times. Still, Darwin will probably be loved by most of the juniors in attendance.†

The pro-conservation and pro-feminist messages are smoothly integrated into the narrative and the African landscapes are beautifully and realistically rendered behind the vivid character designs. What's so refreshing about this cartoon is the eccentricity of the Thornberry clan, including the daffy grandparents who pop up in a few funny scenes. No dull nuclear family, the Thornberrys have a wonderful spirit of adventure and kooky sense of humour that makes their escapades highly enjoyable for all audiences.†

Perhaps the best message it carries and one likely to be embraced by many young girls is that it's OK to look and think differently from the crowd and defying convention is alright when you believe passionately in a cause. Directed by Cathy Malkasian and Jeff McGrath, whose credits include Duckman and Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys is a winner that doesn't attempt to rival Pixar and Disney in the technical animation stakes but has as much heart and life as anything made by the big guns.

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VOICES: Lacey Chabert, Tim Curry, Tom Kanem, Lynn Redgrave, Jodi Carlisle

PRODUCER: Gabor Csupo, Arlene Klasky

DIRECTOR: Cathy Malkasian, Jeff McGrath

SCRIPT: Kate Boutilier


EDITOR: John Bryant

MUSIC: Randy Kerber, Drew Neumann, Paul Simon, Brandy Norwood (song)


RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 10, 2003: Sydney, Melbourne; Adelaide: April 17, 2003; Brisbane/Perth: tba)

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