Nickelodeon // 1998 // 450 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 29th, 2011
For Eliza Thornberry and her family, life will never be the same.
Shout! Factory has decided to excavate this decade-old Nickelodeon cartoon from the recesses of the animation crypt and re-deploy its first season into my DVD player, an action that I do not appreciate.
Being in college when this show aired, I was not privy to the Thornberrys craze (not saying I wasn't emotionally stunted enough to watch cartoons; we just didn't get Nickelodeon in the dorms). So here I am now, exposed for the first time to one of Nick's tentpole series and, yikes, it sort of blows.
The plot: Mr. Thornberry is a nature show host who drags his family all around the world with him in a cramped van. His wife shoots the footage. Eliza Thornberry is the main character and she has the power of The Beastmaster, being able to talk to animals and trick them into doing her will. The rest of the family includes a smart-ass talking monkey named Darwin, Eliza's prim but hipster sister with awkwardly perky cartoon breasts and a feral toddler boy who eats ants. They drive around the jungles and get into tepid adventures for 20 clunky episodes.
I just don't see the appeal of Wild Thornberrys. The characters aren't quirky or lovable enough to make me care. Eliza is a stiff, her dad is a hapless idiot, mom is a humorless killjoy, the monkey terrifies me, the sister is weirdly attractive and that little boy should be in the hands of child services by now.
The family's exploits typically involve nature hijinks of some sort: Eliza will rally a village of monkeys, the Thornberrys attempt to elude poachers, they discover gold in the Golapagos Islands, battle evil hunters (of course) and learn about foliage and animals. It's all quite boring.
If you're psyched for this (re)release you'll be unhappy to hear the following news: the show looks terrible. Yes it's been a decade-plus, but TV shows didn't look they had been filmed with pig fat rubbed on the lenses, right? The full-frame transfer here is atrocious, low-res, shifty, and aged. A standard-issue 2.0 stereo and no extras round out an underwhelming set.
Guilty. Revoke the Thornberrys travel visas.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 450 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated