Non-fans of Nickelodeon’s “The Wild Thornberrys” need not worry: The Wild Thornberrys Movie begins with an efficient recap for those unfamiliar with how 12-year-old Eliza Thornberry (Lacey Chabert) came to communicate with animals and travel the world with her family. When poachers kidnap a baby cheetah named Tally, Eliza almost loses her life and is subsequently shipped off to a boarding school in England by her grandmother Cordelia (Lynn Redgrave). Hellbent on reuniting Tally with his mother, Eliza returns to Africa and discovers that poachers are planning to kill a horde of elephants during a solar eclipse. Though they’re not quite as cynical and subversive as the Rugrats clan, the Thornberrys are still every bit as charming and wholesome. In order to save her airhead sister Debbie (here, the film’s screechy Achilles’ heel) from death, Eliza sacrifices her magical powers. A defeated Eliza is haunted by the fact that she and chimpanzee best friend Darwin had a falling-out before she relinquished her powers. The young girl must now learn to save a jungle with compassion alone. It must count as a small miracle that a film so drunk on family values never succumbs to mawkishness. Though Eliza defies her family in returning to Africa, her act of retaliation is both a means of asserting her power and keeping all sorts of families together. The film’s folksy, independent spirit is heightened by a charming soundtrack that features original compositions by Drew Neumann (“Aeon Flux”) and songs by Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel. Despite the 2-D animation, The Wild Thornberrys Movie makes for a surprisingly cinematic experience, so much so that some of the film’s more suspenseful sequences may be a bit inappropriate for younger children.
Paramount makes The Wild Thornberrys Movie available here both in a 1.85:1 widescreen version (enhanced for 16:9 TVs) and a full-screen version. The print is clean and blacks are solid throughout. Colors are not as vibrant as you'd imagine, but that has less to do with the transfer itself than it does with the film's original color palette, which seeks to match the sun-dried look of the film's African locale. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is well-mixed and surrounds are surprisingly frenetic.
Nothing special here except for the film's theatrical trailer, a music video for Paul Simon's Oscar-nominated "Father and Daughter" and previews of other Paramount Home Video titles (fast forward past the atrocious Charlotte's Web 2 preview and catch the Spongebob montage). There's also a Wild Thornberrys Game Demo you can play but you'll have to download it to your system first. Only four or five games are available in the demo version but there are surprisingly challenging (save for one annoying game where Debbie has to save Eliza while riding a difficult to control motorbike) and should keep kids occupied for quite some time.
The lack of features makes for a disappointing package. The Game Demo alone is a notable ROM feature, but even then hardcore fans of the Nickelodeon show may already have the full version on their computers.