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The Whale Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 60

    out of 100

    Village Voice

    If your children love animals, by all means, take them to see The Whale. If you appreciate gorgeous scenery, the movie doubles as a picture postcard for the region. If you simply want to indulge in warm-and-fuzzy scenes of whale petting, this movie is also for you. What it is not, however, is remotely new.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    Los Angeles Times

    Thoughtful and moving, if often heavy-handed, The Whale follows the remarkable story of Luna and will appeal to animal lovers of all ages.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    Variety Ronnie Scheib

    When a baby orca strayed from its family pod near Puget Sound and showed up 200 miles away in Canada in 2001, it became the center of a long-running human drama by turns cute, inspirational, ludicrous and tragic, as documented in The Whale.

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  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    The Whale is a thoughtful, philosophical, political and ultimately sad documentary that ponders the impulses behind, and advisability of, intense interaction between human beings and another smart species.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 8+

Touching nature docu gets too emotional for littlest kids.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this wildlife documentary follows a lost young orca that uses humans for his innate need to socialize. There's no age-inappropriate content in the movie, but (spoiler alert!) it does have a sad ending that could deeply affect younger viewers who aren't prepared. The relationship between the First Nations tribe and the local authorities -- and how the two groups have contrasting views of what's best for Luna -- makes for interesting conversations after viewing the documentary.

  • Families can talk about how everyone wants to do what's best for Luna. How are each of the factions portrayed? Are there "good guys" and "bad guys" here?
  • How does this movie compare to other animal/nature documentaries you've seen?
  • What do you think the filmmakers' goal is with the movie? How do they want audiences to feel/react? How can you tell?

The good stuff
  • educationalvalue true2

    Educational value: Kids will hear about First Nation lore and the reasons the tribe believed that their chief's spirit was present in Luna. The documentary also explains the way orcas need to be in social units to survive -- with their families nearby.

  • message true2

    Messages: Themes/messages include the nature of human-animal relationships, wild animals' inability to become "domesticated," the dangers that humans pose to sea animals, and the way that attempts to help can sometimes hinder a cause if we're not willing to reevaluate how and why rules are put in place. The close ties between First Nation tribes and nature are explored, as is their belief in spirits.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: The First Nations tribe peacefully protests Luna's capture. Various members of the Nootka Sound community want to do what's best for Luna, even if that means possible damage to their boats.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence and scariness: A man wants to press charges against Luna for ruining his motor. Another man contemplates what it would take for Luna to be put down. There's much discussion of how Luna could get hurt if he stays so close to humans. In one scene it looks like Luna's on a collision course with a paddler, but no one is hurt. Spoiler alert: At the end, news of Luna's demise is sudden and very upsetting, even though there's no footage of the accident that kills him. All of the adults viewers have met who love Luna are distraught, and a few look visibly upset.

  • sex false0

    Sexy stuff: Not an issue

  • language false0

    Language: Not an issue

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not an issue