Whale Rider - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Whale Rider Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ February 7, 2013
A poetic look into a different culture that really isn't too different, simply remembering that it was at one time and wanting to hold that memory. A small coastal community of Maoris deal daily with being New Zealanders while not being entirely so, particularly hard for a young pubescent lass ostracized because of her sex, despite that she offers hope of continuing traditions. Good performances by all the leads though the story worries around a barn door being open long, long after the horse has already gone.
Super Reviewer
April 17, 2012
A young girl might fulfill a prophecy in an indigenous New Zealand community.
Though the film brims with authenticity, it is almost too authentic. There are voice overs explaining the culture in which the film is set, but I spent some of the film lost about the relationship between the protagonist and the legend she's supposed to fulfill. The patriarchal structure of the family provides grounding to the story, and the interactions between the characters are interesting, but the grand metaphysical puzzle that dominates this film isn't clear to one who is unfamiliar with the film's cultural backdrop.
Overall, I liked Whale Rider, but I don't think I fully got it.
Super Reviewer
March 24, 2008
It is not very often that I'm impressed with a child actor. I'm usually just greatful when they don't totally annoy me and/or cheapen the film.

But every once and awhile, I am blown away (Victoire Thivisol - Ponette / Anna Paquin - The Piano / Christian Bale - Empire Of The Sun) and Keisha Castle-Hughes performance here, is one of those rare ocassions.

This film is not overly complex, but it is deeply moving and beautifully shot and told. The cast in general is exceptional, but also worth noting is Vicky Haughton as "Nanny Flowers".

I didn't expect to be as moved by this film as I was, but it really touched me and that has everything to do with the performance of Castle-Hughes. She is completely engaging and totally bealievable in her role. A true "natural".
Super Reviewer
July 9, 2010
good plot. I like the fact that they put a really whale in this film.
Super Reviewer
½ November 21, 2006
Heard good things about this film and every word of it was true. Great storyline which gives the viewer some kind of insight into the culture and tradition of the group of Maori people in a coastal village in New Zealand.. A fantastic performance from Keisha Castle-Hughes..

This film totally held me from beginning to end and is very much about the storyline, one which is unique, full of emotion and not by any means a soft girly film, it?s a film of true spirit and loyalty and tradition.
Super Reviewer
July 5, 2007
Quite touching story, set in the ever-beautiful New Zealand, about a young girl and her determined quest to furfil a special destiny. Great acting by Keisha Castle-Hughes, whose performance here was surely worthy of the Oscar-nomination she later received.

Overall, however, this wasn't really my cup of tea, as I was expecting something a bit more engaging and a little less draggy. It's not that it was bad in any way, it's just more of a movie made for the New Zealanders themselves, who may better relate to the Maori traditions upon which the story here is based.
Super Reviewer
March 28, 2008
A great movie for the whole family. The girls will love it, not sure about the boy's. Its one of those real rainny day movies when there's no sugar in the house and the X-box is broke, once they sit down and start watching it they will be glued to the TV. Adults will enjoy it also.
Super Reviewer
August 5, 2007
Super Reviewer
½ June 18, 2006
Koro: When she was born, that's when things went wrong for us.

This is a great movie about tradition and acceptance.

It is set in New Zealand, revolving around a Maori tribe. In particular the life of a young girl played by Keisha Castle-Hughes. She is the youngest daughter in a family where the young male child is always the next in line to be chief. Unfortunately, the male has died, leaving a tension between the grandfather and the young girl.

The story is so absorbing, slipping in and out of coming of age comedy and drama. There are a number of memorable moments, especially towards the end.

All of the actors do what is needed. The film is well made, for a limited budget. The tone and pacing is well balanced. This is a wonderful little movie.

Koro: If you have the tooth of a whale, you must have the jaw of a whale to yield it.
Super Reviewer
½ June 14, 2006
The struggle of a native New Zealand girl for acceptance as the first born in the chief's family. The movie is rather slow, but very poetic and gives an interesting insight into this little known culture. While some parts are more entertaining than others, Keisha Castle-Hughes gives a heartwarming performance and the wonderful ending is pure movie magic.
Super Reviewer
½ September 6, 2006
Impressive and emotional Kiwi movie.
Super Reviewer
August 25, 2006
Awesomely fantastic and mesmerizing.
Super Reviewer
September 30, 2014
The indie film Whale Rider is an engrossing character drama with an inspirational message. The story follows a 12-year-old Maori girl named Paikea Apirana who struggles to earn her grandfather's love and respect, but is neglected and belittled as he seeks to find a new chief to lead the Maori tribe. The relationship between Paikea and her grandfather is exceptionally well-written and feels remarkably real. But a lot of the credit has to go to newcomer Keisha Castle-Hughes, who gives an amazingly heartbreaking performance that's incredibly compelling. Touching and powerful, Whale Rider is extraordinarily well-crafted film.
Super Reviewer
January 3, 2013
So, it is the typical story of a young outsider making a moving film and then vanishing. Such is the case with Keisha Castle Hughes. The Kiwis have given us a few uplifting films involving their aboriginal peoples and this one is particularly memorable.
Super Reviewer
October 1, 2008
"My name is Paikea Apirana, and I come from a long line of chiefs." 'Whale Rider' is a very poignant film about a girl overcoming the odds of inheriting the role of village chief, being female and partly blamed for the death of her twin brother, the supposed next-in-line, and her mother during childbirth. Touching on the Maori tradition, integration and acceptance, it amazed me with powerful scenes, honest performances and beautiful cinematography done mostly in New Zealand. Keisha Castle-Hughes was definitely the star of the show, and her convincing expressiveness definitely deserved her Oscar nomination.
Super Reviewer
June 14, 2007
It was actually better than I thought it would be.
Super Reviewer
½ August 4, 2009
An aura of enchanting beauty, this film is as poignant and as powerful as the Maori Legend. This is the story of 12-year-old Paikea "Pai" Apirana who, although a girl, is the spiritual heir to her Ngati Porou tribe.

Yet her grandfather Koro, the local custodian of his people's centuries and-old- culture, cannot see the truth that dances magically infront of him. He can't see how blessed he is to have such an extraordinary granddaughter. He, instead bequeaths his leadership to the son of another.

Pai however, finds the strength to challenge her family and embraces a thousand years of tradition in order to fulfill her destiny--her calling for her Ngati Porou tribe--and hence, trains herself in the ways and customs of her people.

Filmed quite naturally in and around the seaside village of Whangara, Whale Rider captures the very essence of the clash between traditional values and the modern world without ever using a heavy hand. Keisha Castle-Hughes as Pai is mesmerizing. Rawiri Paratene as Koro seems to personify the film's entire conflict in his weathered face.

One of the most touching scene is when tears stream down Pai cheeks as she chokes trying to get all the words out correctly of the ancient Maori songs to impress her grandfather, as well as her songs of encouragement to the whales. She was so sure that he would be there, that he would come, but he hasn't...

This is a brilliant film through and through.
Super Reviewer
½ June 27, 2006
One of the best family films I have ever seen - absolutely stunning movie.
Super Reviewer
½ January 19, 2009
Set in modern day New Zealand, this movie is about a twelve-year-old girl's relationship with her grandfather, who is the chief of his tribe.The grandfather is looking for his successor, and his granddaughter thinks *she* might be the one. Her grandfather disagrees, and this leads to a lot of heartache for young Pai. This is a feminist coming of age story, but it transcends your expectations and leaves you feeling hopeful.
Super Reviewer
September 11, 2010
A universally applicable story that questions what do we owe the mythos and what does the mythos owe us. How does an individual accept or reject the load of adsorbing his or her cultural/familiar past and passing it forward. Do you accept that past as Dogma or do you meld it to the current. I looked at the cover and the description and mistook this for a Disney-esque style antiseptic kids movie it is not this is more tribal myth style. Twins are born to the son of a New Zeeland Indian tribe chieftain. The male heir and mother die in child birth. The chieftain is blinded by a search for his 1st born male heir he ignores the sorrow of his son. The tribe was down trodden and the chieftain was waiting for a male heir to bring his tribe back to there center. The son names his daughter Paikea, a name set aside for the next 1st born male in the chieftain?s family line, the heir that would bring the tribe to prominence. The son leaves his daughter to the care of her grandmother and grandfather(the chieftain) and leaves the tribe to become a successful traveling artist. The movie jumps ahead to Paikea entering young adulthood. Her grandfather the chieftain develops a loving relationship with Paikea but has open contempt for Paikea?s interest in the training to be a chieftain. Like ?The boy who wanted to be a Polar Bear? this movie stays true to a mythical theme. Not Mythical in the current vernacular but in the old stories told before movies and videos.
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