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Whale Rider /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton, Cliff Curtis, Grant Roa
Directed by: Niki Caro
Produced by: Tim Sanders, John Barnett, Frank Hubner
Written by: Niki Caro
Distributor: Newmarket Films


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Movie Image
Movie Image

     If I had a billion dollars, I would form a movie distribution company. I would take amazing art-house films like Whale Rider, and put them into as many theatres as the lamely weak and embarrassingly ugly mainstream, teen-targeted flicks like Bruce Almighty and Dumb and Dumberer. Many of the major distributors would say the reason that they donít take chances with pictures like Whale Rider, is because they wouldnít sell well to the average person. If people were able to witness a film as wonderfully moving as this one, though, I can guarantee that they would go back for a second-helpings of the genre. The only reason that giant distributors believe that art-house films wonít be able to make it in the normal market, is because theyíve never tried releasing one in it. Whale Rider is the best film of the year so far, and I can guarantee that if the entire U.S. population were to see it, ninety-nine percent of the people to witness its purely divine goodness would fall in love.

     Whale Rider is a unique gem, indeed. It takes us to present-day New Zealand, a truly beautiful setting for such an empowering and impacting film. Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is a young Maori girl, whose twin brother and mother died during her delivery. Her father, an artist, leaves New Zealand, but comes back to visit regularly. Pai is primarily raised by her grandfather, who sheís constantly trying to prove her worthiness to, and her loving grandmother.

     Paiís grandfather, Koro (Rawiri Paratene) was quite disappointed by the traumatic birth of his granddaughter. In the male-dominant society of the Maori, the sons of the native men train, and hope, to become the chief of their people. Koro is the current chief. His son, Porourangi, the father of Pai, was next in line to become chief, but turned the position down so he could leave New Zealand and pursue his career as an artist. When Porourangiís son died just after birth, Koro was devastated that the boy that he believed would surely become chief, had left the world before arising to the position. Even worse, Porourangiís wife had died; he would have to find a new woman to have another son with. Throughout the film, as Pai grows, she shows Koro that she is as capable as any boy, and could become the next chief. Despite his tremendous love for her, he will never accept the fact that she could do so, and constantly puts her down and doubts her. Paiís ambition throughout Whale Rider is spirit-lifting and heart-stopping.

     Even though most of us have not heard of any of the actors in Whale Rider, we can appreciate their performances, often times more than any veterans in Hollywood. Castle-Hughes is tremendous as Pai, and shows more emotion in her role, than anyone else has in the last decade. Castle-Hughes is always striking on the screen, and values every second she has on it as if it were a part of her own life. There are few times when I feel tempted to burst out in the middle of a screening, and express to the entire audience of the given film how much I liked a certain personís performance, but Castle-Hughes made me want to. Whatís even more miraculous is that she isnít even the best in the film; Paratene takes that title. He gives the most powerful performance of the picture, and symbolizes the real meaning of the it. Whale Rider shows us, once again, that big, booming special effects arenít what make a movie great. Itís excellent acting and a well-written scriptótwo things that this film definitely has.

     Iíve been to more movies in the last two years than many will see in a lifetime, and rarely does one receive applause from the audience when the credits begin to role. Whale Rider did not only get the sporadic clap when over, but rightfully played amongst a standing ovation from many. I have never come across a film that put as great an impact on me, in my life. It will surely do the same with every audience that witnesses it, around the globe. As it stands right now, itís the best movie of the year so faróand even though it will be overlooked because of the limited art-house release, itís deserving of all the box office money it can take in. Whale Rider is spiritually moving and epically tear-jerking. I cannot put into words the emotion that we feel when viewing it. To sum it up in two final words and a contractionóitís extravagantly beautiful.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews


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