A ChucksConnection Film Review


Christian Convery wears navy blue low top Converse “Chuck Taylor” All Stars in the film.

The Tiger Rising

by Hal Peterson

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Rob walks through the woods on his way to discovering a caged tiger.


Life has been tough lately for ten-year-old Rob Horton (Christian Convery). In the past year or so he has lost his mother to cancer, and she was the glue that held their family together. In the occasional flashbacks we see of better times in the Horton family, Caroline (Katherine McPhee) is the shining presence in their lives. Now Rob finds himself living in the Kentucky Star, a somewhat run down motel in their rural Florida Panhandle town with his father Robert Horton Sr. (Sam Trammell) who is seemingly unemployed and getting by doing odd jobs for the motel's owner Mr. Beauchamp (Dennis Quaid). At his school and on the school bus ride there, Rob is constantly bullied by two Bubbas (Nicholas Ryan Hernandez and Jayden Fontaine) who delight in tormenting him. It is hard for the smaller and soft-spoken Rob to stand up to them, especially with another affliction he has, a skin rash on both legs that leaves them a raw red color, and constantly itching. It is no surprise that Rob escapes into a private world of his own. It turns out he is a talented artist capable of directly drawing what he sees, and later we discover he is an excellent whittler of wood. Rob’s artwork will sometime animate in his imagination along with memories of life with his mom.

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Rob talks with Willie Mae in the laundry room.

The story line begins with two big changes in Rob’s life. The first is when he discovers a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel one morning. This seems unbelievable to Rob, but there it is. It turns out the tiger belongs to Mr. Beauchamp who received it as payment for a debt. Beauchamp is a somewhat reluctant owner, very much afraid of the cat, who jumps at him when he goes to feed it chunks of raw meat. Later, Beauchamp enlists Rob to take over the job of feeding it on the condition that their arrangement is a secret deal between the two of them. This is probably the weakest part of the story line, because even someone as sleazy as Beauchamp must know that hiring a ten-year-old to feed a trapped tiger is not a good idea and many would consider it a form of child abuse. Interestingly we never see young Rob actually feed the tiger; apparently he was able to sooth the savage beast. The other change is the introduction of Sistine Bailey (Madalen Mills) another new student in Rob’s class at school. Sistine (named after the famous Vatican chapel) is very angry about her parent’s recent divorce. She is living with her mother, but constantly announces that her father will be coming to pick her up and take her away any day now. She does things to alienate the locals, telling them that they are all stupid. This makes her an unpopular outsider which in the long run ends up having her become friends, grudgingly at first, with Rob the other outsider. One day to impress her, Rob tells her about the tiger. Sistine of course doesn’t believe him until he brings her to see it.


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The principal suspends Rob from school until his rash heals.


After complaints from other parents, Rob is called into the principal’s office and suspended from school until his rash clears up. Although this seems to be a very weak reason for denying a student education, compliant Rob and his father go along with it. Now instead of going to class, Rob has to do chores for his father. But he also gets to spend time with Willie May (Queen Latifah), the motel’s housekeeper who is the first adult in a while to provide him with plain talk, compassion for his situation, and good advice about dealing with all the adversity he is facing. Willie May believes that Rob’s rash is due in part to all the grief that he is holding inside and the fact that his father won’t let him even talk about his mom. With Rob always at the motel, Sistine begins to spend a lot more time there after school with him and visiting the tiger. She insists that the right thing to do is to let the tiger go free. Rob resists this idea and the remainder of the movie focuses on this plot point. Should they release the tiger, or is that a very bad idea? Do these kids have the understanding to make such a decision or the foresight to anticipate what will happen when a large Bengal tiger is released in the Florida Panhandle?


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Sistine and Rob approach the caged tiger.


The Tiger Rising is more interesting as a character study than a story. Unfortunately there are many inconsistencies in the story line that require explanations to younger and older viewers alike. Based on a children’s book by Kate DiCamillo, there is not a lot of depth to the story which has a somewhat predictable ending. But the strong performances of Christian Convery and Madalen Mills keep your interest throughout. Certainly there is a lot of material for discussion in a family viewing. Queen Latifah adds a positive and comforting note to the film, even with limited screen time. Writer and director Ray Giarratana has done well with the emotional tone of the film and his direction of his young actors, bringing out their sadness, loneliness, and longing for their past lives. That is what makes this film worth viewing.

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Rob’s dad applies antiseptic cream to his leg.

Best Chucks Scene

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Close up of Rob’s navy blue low top chucks as he walks through the woods.


Christian Convery, in his leading role as young Rob, wears nicely broken in navy blue low top chucks throughout the film. The cinematography by Shane F. Kelly is chucks friendly throughout the film, with a number of closeup shots like you see here and many full shots of Rob wearing them while interacting with other characters. You see this a lot in the media these days, for privacy issues, and because a young boy’s sneakers are seen as a reflection of himself. In Rob’s case that of a polite and quiet boy who has had a rough time dealing with reduced family circumstances, bullies at school, grieving over the loss of his mother, and an annoying rash that has developed on his legs.

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Rob reaches down to scratch his itching legs.

The Tiger Rising. (2022) Christian Convery, Sam Trammell, Nicholas Ryan Hernandez, Jayden Fontaine, Madalen Mills, Katharine McPhee, Queen Latifah, Dennis Quaid.
Written and directed by Ray Giarratana.
Category: Family.
ChucksConnection Rating: 2.5 chucks rating MPAA Rating: PG


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