In the children’s drama ‘The Tiger Rising’, a lonely boy whose mother has recently passed away finds a spiritual ally when he discovers a caged tiger in a forest behind his home in rural Florida.
Rob (Christian Convery) is a shy 12-year-old whose skin condition has made him a target for his classmates. They call him, in an example of the film’s tasteless affections, Disease Boy.
Rob comes across the tiger while wandering the forest alone, but the quiet boy is an unlikely companion for such a wild creature. It’s only when he befriends a feisty new student named Sistine (Madalen Mills) that Rob’s fantasy begins to grow.
Loneliness binds the two outcasts and together they find an outlet for their frustrations by visiting the tiger. They want to release the animal, even if it’s against the advice of the only adult Rob and Sistine trust, Willie May (Queen Latifah), a maid the children consider to be a prophet.
Director and screenwriter Ray Giarratana mixes elements of whimsy and childhood desire in ‘The Tiger Rising’, based on Kate DiCamillo’s book, with drawings that come to life and vivid dreams of tigers running wild. The fantasy scenes provide the film with ephemeral energy. But the imagination is short-lived, as the film seems to wring every drop of sentiment from the scenes of lonely dreamers.
Here children are angels conquering demons, black women are endowed with extraterrestrial wisdom and tigers are symbols of spiritual emancipation. The metaphors are so obvious that the film becomes trapped in its own cage of archetypes and clichés, and unlike the tiger, no champion opens the gates to a more original cinematic world.
The tiger that rises
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. Rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV providers.