Main cast: Lacey Chabert (Eliza Thornberry), Tom Kane (Darwin), Tim Curry (Nigel Thornberry/Col Radcliff Thornberry), Lynn Redgrave (Cordelia Thornberry), Jodi Carlisle (Marianne Thornberry), Danielle Harris (Debbie Thornberry), Flea (Donnie Thornberry), Kimberly Brooks (Tally), Alfre Woodard (Akela), Marisa Tomei (Bree Blackburn), and Rupert Everett (Sloan Blackburn)
Directors: Cathy Malkasian and Jeff McGrath
The Wild Thornberrys Movie is brought to us by the same people behind Rugrats, so the cartoon styles in this animated movie is similar to that in the other cartoon series. I like the style, but I know there are people who don’t. The only thing that keeps me from enjoying this movie fully is that Eliza Thornberry’s high-pitched whining and moaning are like ten-inch razor-sharp nails lacerating my brain. Lacey Chabert will do well to dial herself down next time.
For those who don’t watch the cartoon series, the Thornberrys are an English family of roving, adventurous explorers that travel the world while producing documentaries about animals. There’s Eliza, our heroine. Once upon a time, she freed a wild boar who turns out to be a magical shaman. This shaman bestows upon Eliza the ability to speak to animals. This ability, however, will be lost if she ever reveals to anybody else about it. Her parents are Nigel, a man who openly admits to having a blind spot when it comes to sarcasm, and Marianne. Eliza’s unhappy sister Debbie just wants to be among civilized people and not animals for a change. There’s Donnie, a foundling who speaks his own language and interacts better with monkeys than people. Rounding up the gang is Darwin the monkey who is Eliza’s best friend. Darwin speaks like an arrogant stereotypical English butler, but that’s not a bad thing in this instance, as he’s funny. We also meet Eliza’s grandparents here, stereotypical snooty types who nonetheless aren’t above some adventurous action themselves once in a while.
In this movie, Eliza loses a cheetah cub, Tally, to poachers. Before she can convince anybody to help her, she is sent back to England for a stint in a boarding school. (Debbie is so envious.) After some amusing misadventures at the boarding school – Darwin stowed away in her bag and ends up wrecking havoc there – Eliza finally escapes and travels back to Africa, Darwin in tow, to rescue Tally. She encounters two conservationists, Bree and Sloan, who may or may not be who they claim to be. Meanwhile, the grandparents parachute down at the Thornberrys camp in Africa to search for Eliza, and soon even poor Debbie finds herself roughing it through the wilderness to find Eliza.
There are many things to like in this movie. The Wild Thornberrys Movie successfully captures the awe and grandeur of nature, and in this case, its heavy pro-conservation messages blend in beautifully with the story. Scene-stealers Darwin and Debbie with their amusing lines are a hoot to watch, while the other animals are just as fun to watch. Its “happy animals all living in harmony” message is a bit on a naïve side, but hey, this is a kids’ movie after all, right?
The only thing is, Eliza’s voice. Towards the later parts of the movie, this young lady is whining, and I mean whining, moaning, and whining in this grating, highly abrasive voice that is like someone sandpapering my brain while dripping corrosive acid down my ear canals. It is so annoying to the point that I have to lower the volume just to survive the last fifteen minutes of this movie.
Still, a heroine that is begging for a nuzzle aside, this movie is fun. When I was a young kid, I wanted to be a conservationist and explore and save animals in Africa. Watching this movie, I feel those dormant childish ambitions resurface, because this movie captures the humbling majesty of nature’s grandeur so well. All in all, a fun and enjoyable movie for the whole family.