Review by Dan Skip Allen
Books have been the inspiration of many movies in the past and will continue to be in the future. The Tiger Rising is a 2001 children's book written by Newbery Medal award-winning Author Cate DiCamillo. With a lot of popular books, Hollywood comes calling. They are always looking for the next best thing to turn into a film.
The film is about a 12-year-old boy (Christian Convoy) who finds a tiger caged up in the woods adjacent to the hotel he lives in with his father (Sam Trammell, The Fault in our Stars). He enlists the help of a feisty new girl in school (Madelen Mills) and the hotel maid (Queen Latifah). Along the way, he has an imagination that gets the best of him.
Children's books can bring imagination and wonder to the readers. They bring kids to a place they don't get in their real lives at home. They have to do chores and be restricted by rules. The same goes for school. It's always do this and do that go here and go there at specific times. This film brings viewers into these kids' minds — what they are thinking and how their lives are so miserable in various ways. Finding this tiger in the woods makes their lives better in an inspiring way.
The director Ray Giarratana captures a whimsy in this film when these children are thinking about the things that matter to them, such as one of their mothers and the father of the other. Aspects of anger and artistic ability flow throughout the film to show what these new friends are thinking. They tend to think like kids. That is where the filmmakers get it right. They make mistakes and do things wrong. That's what kids do so it makes sense in the context of the film.
The film focuses on the kids and their discovery, but there has to be some star power to get patrons to go see this film. That's where Trammell, Queen Latifah, and the somewhat villainous Dennis Quaid come in. He owns the hotel and land where all the action takes place. He has some issues with Trammell's character and is a bit shady overall. He's not a mustache-twirling villain, but he's not a nice guy either. Quaid is always effective no matter what kind of roles he's playing.
The Tiger Rising is a nice, sweet film with a good message. It has a tragedy within it that felt a little out of place considering the path that it was headed in. The acting is fine, not great. The filmmaking style is ok, but not anything to write home about. The kids are the best part of the film. Their relationship and growth are the real reason to see this film. Some books just don't make great films... they make okay films.
The Tiger Rising hits theaters on January 21 and VOD on February 8.