The story follows the Thornberrys, a hodge-podge British family of three generations all living in one souped-up trailer home, as they travel throughout the world documenting nature's wonders. Our protagonist is young Eliza (Lacey Chabert), who has been given a magical gift to talk to animals. Eliza is the quintessential loner, as she is more content with her animal friends than her family's rules and constantly seeks adventure. Along with her chimpanzee companion Darwin (Tom Kane), she manages to get into trouble when she recklessly takes the baby cheetah Akela past the safe boundaries of the desert. Sure enough, malicious poachers snatch up Akela from a helicopter, and despite Eliza's heroic efforts, she's unable to save the cub. Heartbroken and facing rebuke from her bewildered parents, Eliza is shipped off to boarding in school in England. Trapped in the confines of "civilization," Eliza vows to find the lost cheetah cub and to return to her family where she rightfully belongs.
The most important consideration when judging a film like this, of course, is the kids. I promise yours will love it, especially if they are fans of the show. As appropriately asexual as animals must appear in this kind of cartoon, the bathroom humor is suitably hilarious, as chimpanzee buttocks and gorilla flagellations overwhelm us. The most enjoyable character is Eliza's older sister Deborah (Danielle Harris), who despite her inexplicable American accent, adds comic relief as a Valley girl trapped in the Congo. Imagine if Rachel from Friends was stuck in Africa with a family of geek researchers, and you get the amusing picture.
The best part of the film is the gratifying theme that the animal kingdom must unite in order to live without fear of man's greed. Through Eliza Thornberry, and her misadventures, it really hits its mark.
Ride like the wind, Thornberry!
Run time: 85 mins
In Theaters: Friday 20th December 2002
Box Office USA: $39.8M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 70 Rotten: 18
IMDB: 5.1 / 10
Screenwriter: Kate Boutilier
Starring: Lacey Chabert as Eliza Thornberry, Tom Kane as Darwin, Cree Summer as Phaedra (Elephant), Tim Curry as Nigel Thornberry, Lynn Redgrave as Cordelia Thornberry, Jodi Carlisle as Marianne Thornberry, Danielle Harris as Debbie Thornberry, Michael Peter Balzary as Donnie Thornberry, Crystal Scales as Cheetah Cubs, Kimberly Brooks as Tally (Cheetah Cub), Alfre Woodard as Akela (Cheetah Mother), Brock Peters as Jomo, Melissa Greenspan as Sarah Wellington, Alexandra Boyd as Victoria, Moira Quirk as Jane