“The Tiger Rising” Leaps Beautifully from Page to Screen

Adaptation and Casting of Kate DiCamillo’s New York Times Best Selling Story Delivers

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We all have unfinished emotional business; it’s what we do with it that creates various life circumstances, good and bad. Crafted for young adults, but brilliantly delivering this message to audiences of all ages, the storyline of The Tiger Rising addresses how we might unconsciously be creating emotional cages for ourselves, limiting our own growth because of what we’ve seen, heard, lost or otherwise endured.

Twelve-year-old Rob Horton (Christian Convery) and his father (Sam Tremell) have moved to a motel and holed up after the loss of one very special mother and wife. To say their lives have been formed by their attempt to escape those who want to make inquiry about the way they’re handling their grief is an understatement: Rob’s dad has put himself under the leadership of a small-time business tyrant with no conscience, and Rob is bullied, daily, by schoolmates who are threatened by his sensitive nature. As handyman at the motel in which he’s chosen to live, Rob’s father hands over his power, daily, to the motel owner, Mr. Beechum, in exchange for assurance of a presumably safe roof overheard. The power-over extends to Rob, a quiet, respectful, and meek child with artistic inclinations, who Beechum also intimidates and degrades.

The Tiger Rising official trailer

Rob is gifted with a best friend when a new student lands in his class by way of forced relocation to her newly-divorced mother’s home town. “Sistine” (Madalen Mills) is trouble from the get-go with her indomitable spirit rising out of the anger, indignation, and pain of rejection by her father and a mouth lacking filter! When Sistine also becomes subject to the other school kids’ bullying, the two are bonded in friendship that transcends their individual losses.

Rob (Christian Convery) shares his artwork with Sistine (Madalen Mills)

Along the way, the motel’s one other employee other than the boy’s father, Willie May (played by Queen Latifah) shows up to lend both a listening ear and emotional support. Latifah warms us- as she also warns- as sage housekeeping staffer, perfect in her ever-wise and unassuming role as mainstream prophetess dispensing insights and care at just the right times. We never tire of the depth of character this humble actress brings with her to any film project, and this appearance does not disappoint.

Casting, overall, shines: Dennis Quaid is just the right amount of rough-around-the-edges as well as conditionally heartless to pull off his role as narcissistic Mr. Beechum. Sam Trammel wins us as struggling single parent locked in grief. Catherine McPhee is loving- and lovely- as Rob’s deceased mother. Both child actors are convincing, at times almost frighteningly so, in fully embracing the embodiment of their respective losses- either by estrangement or physical death- of parent and, thereby, also loss of much-needed love and nurturing.

Willie May (Queen Latifah) consoles Sistine (Madalen Mills)

The film makers treat the audience to beautiful ethereal scenes in nature, whimsical special effects, fantastic spot animation sequences, and other treatments that remind a bit of the film Miss Potter. Based on the novel by the same name by Kate DiCamillo, the film is adapted by Ray Giarratana with some changes from the original story.  Giarratana’s writing and directing talents make this film and cast shine!

Special Preview for Educators

Opening January 21, 2022, The Tiger Rising is not to be missed: Gather the family and have some tissues on hand. Wonderful for any age, but with a “trigger” alert concerning loss of loved ones by death due to cancer. There is also a fistfight and use of a firearm: Be prepared to answer questions about what happens at death.

Rob and Mr. Beechum (Dennis Quaid) go on adventure

Running 102 minutes, this film is a Family Adventure feature rated PG. Its release is timely and appreciated considering the state of our world- of course, also most especially timely since we’re also now ushering in the Year of the Tiger!


IN THEATERS: January 21, 2022

ON DIGITAL AND ON DEMAND: February 8, 2022

DIRECTOR: Ray Giarratana
WRITERRay Giarratana
CAST: Christian Convery, Madalen Mills, Sam Trammell, Katharine McPhee, Dennis Quaid and Queen Latifah
RUN TIME: 102 Minutes
RATING: PG GENRE: Family/Adventure

Screenwriter and Director Ray Giarratana behind the camera

Text: Michele Caprario

Images: Supplied by and used with permission of film company’s publicist

About Michele Caprario 85 Articles
Michele Caprario is a writer and editor covering great people, places, and projects that bring goodness to the world.

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