The Tiger Rising is too serious & abstract for kids yet too ham-fisted for adults. Sadly, the tale has none of the imagination its protagonist does.

Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow) parachutes into The Tiger Rising doing a full-on Joe Exotic impression, as the opening act plays like the Tiger King, Disney Channel Original Movie. Queen Latifah is sixty percent executive producer and forty percent magical black stereotype, virtually guaranteeing diminishing returns, scene after scene after scene. Based on the 2001 book of the same name byKate DiCamillo, this middle school drama doesn’t get off the ground before falling flat on its face. Overwrought, overacted, and over the top at every turn, The Tiger Rising has one thing going for it; a script that bleeds ridiculous lines like, “That’s how real men do business. In tigers.” and “That’s right, real men do business in tigers.”  


The Kentucky Star Motel is the new home of Robert Horton (Sam Tremmell) and Rob Horton Jr. (Christian Convery) After losing his wife, Robert falls on hard times and Rob Jr. is so stricken with grief it physically manifests itself in a rash that gets him bullied out of school. Enter Sistine Bailey (Madalen Mills), the new girl from Philadelphia doing herself no favors by declaring that everyone in the south is ignorant. The two outsiders band together and learn that the boss of the Kentucky Star Motel, Beauchamp (Quaid) is keeping a tiger on the outskirts of the property. Beauchamp grants Rob Jr. access to the tiger and he is faced with feeding it or freeing it. Queen Latifah (The Equalizer) plays Willie May, the maid at the motel whose entire purpose in the film is to predict the future, give nonsensical advice, and comfort the white characters. As if it wasn’t laid on thick enough, she makes a point to say she’s not a prophet, and ironically it’s the only time she doesn’t act like one in the film. Rob Jr. is a master artist whose work comes to life in his imagination.

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the tiger rising review
Dennis Quaid, Christian Convery, and Madalen Mills in The Tiger Rising

Every once in a while The Tiger Rising will try and reel you in with a drawing of a tiger that runs off the page or a wooden bird flying around a young boy’s imagination. Don’t take the bait. Latifah is an executive producer on the film, but novelist DiCamillo is also behind The Tales of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie, both of which were adapted into films that, albeit weren’t cinema classics, were still executed more smoothly than The Tiger Rising. While DiCamillo is behind the book, director Ray Giarratana (The Artists Journey: Funk Blast) penned the lackluster script for the film.

The time of family adventure movies is long behind us and there’s a reason the Air Bud franchise didn’t last in theaters. Combining the worst parts of both, viewing The Tiger Rising is an experience that won’t have the audience feeling sorry for the protagonist or the tiger, but for themselves. The acting, sold as rough and tumble Florida backwater, is charming for every character with one to three speaking lines. The principal cast is pretty terrible, but when dealing with child acting it’s best to start with a grain of salt.

Christian Convery and Madalen Mills in The Tiger Rising

It should be said that Convery (Playing With Fire) has his moments and his chemistry with True Blood alum Sam Tremmell works at times, but Mills (Summering) is a totally different story. On the one hand, the script has her in its crosshairs as Sistine is unrealistically smart for her age and she has a big temper; her character portrayal is all over the place. On the other hand, Mills’ turn in last year’s Netflix Christmas movie, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, proves she absolutely has what it takes to be a good actor at this age.

Ultimately, The Tiger Rising is too serious and abstract for kids yet too ham-fisted for adults. Sadly, Ray Giarratana’s blundering tale has none of the imagination its protagonist does. For fans of Dennis Quaid or Queen Latifah, there’s a chance one might not like them all that much after this movie. But if a bad 2003, made-for-TV, animal melodrama is what audiences are looking for, then The Tiger Rising is exactly that. 

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The Tiger Rising is in theaters as of January 21 and on demand and digital beginning February 8. The film is 102 minutes long and is rated PG for thematic elements, language, and brief violence.

Our Rating:

1 out of 5 (Poor)


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