It's best that we don't consider what might become of Pai if this poor, unloved girl didn't happen to be the chosen one.
| Original Score: 2.5/4
[It] tries for a somber tone that it can't maintain, partly because the cute protagonist conveys no gravity and partly because it's too frequently going for laughs or stupid melodramatic crises.
| Original Score: 1.5/4
Keisha Castle-Hughes gives a natural performance that is heartwarming and memorable.
| Original Score: C+
Caro strives to poeticize the native sea legends (the lovely underwater whale footage is, alas, all digital), but the aboriginal hoopla comes off as tribal ritual for its own sake.
A portentous coming-of-age saga that weighs as much as the venerated ocean mammals at its center.
| Original Score: 2/4
[The story] is so simple that the audience gets ahead of it from the beginning.
There's nothing wrong with a formula film per se, but when it's done as shallowly as here, I feel insulted.
| Original Score: 1/5
Once destiny is introduced into the story it deflates any sense of suspense.
Caro seems less concerned with evoking the economic or socio-political baggage bringing the film's characters down than she is with telling the same sappy tale of patriarchal perseverance we've seen so many times before.
Has its heart in the right place, and in Castle-Hughes it boasts a young protagonist of charm and energy; it's just a pity the rest of the film isn't quite worthy of her.
Refuses to get its toes wet, instead retreating into goody-goody fantasy.
| Original Score: 3/5
The film is closer to a feminist tract. And, like all propaganda, it wants to do all of your thinking for you.
An excellent first performance can't balance na´ve writing and direction
I can honestly say that there is not a single plot point or character arc depicted here that I have not seen a thousand times before.
| Original Score: 2/5
An exquisite film that sensitively captures the noble spirit of [the New Zealanders] -- and their humor.
| Original Score: 4/5
...an uncommonly intelligent, well-crafted movie that -- despite the curious PG-13 rating -- parents shouldn't hesitate to see with their kids.
| Original Score: B+
More rich and substantive than "Bend It Like Beckham."
| Original Score: 3.5/5
The genius of the movie is the way is sidesteps all of the obvious cliches of the underlying story and makes itself fresh, observant, tough and genuinely moving.
| Original Score: 4/4
The story itself is richly rewarding and uplifting -- the coming-of-age tale of a girl who must defy the odds to achieve her goals.
| Original Score: 3/4
Whale Rider is one of those book-me -a-ticket yesterday movies.
| Original Score: 3.5/4