Whale Rider

Director: Niki Caro
Year Released: 2002
Rating: 2.5

Small village in the midst of a spiritual crisis receives a calling from the beyond in a miracle-of-sorts (not frogs this time) that was brought about by a little girl's (Keisha Castle-Hughes) faith and her grandfather's doubt - had the whole movie been as powerful as its last twenty minutes, we might be talking something truly special. The first hour occupies itself with the indestructible little girl's fight against her old-school grandfather for feminine equality, which is pleasant but frothy and pandering (mostly because of early contrivances and the fact that the child is impervious to any form of criticism - that is, until she pours her heart out at the most opportune time in front of everyone), only to shift gears towards surreal fantasy in the latter stages. Designed for families and imprinted with a positive message of the need for compromise and acceptance - it reminds me, in many ways, of Billy Elliot.