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Whale Rider (Special Edition)

4.6 out of 5 stars 460 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

A small Maori village faces a crisis when the heir to the leadership of the Ngati Konohi dies at birth and is survived only by his twin sister, Pai. Although disregarded by her grandfather and shunned by the village people, twelve-year-old Pai remains certain of her calling and trains herself in the ways and customs of her people. With remarkable grace, Pai finds the strength to challenge her family and embraces a thousand years of tradition in order to fulfill her destiny.

Special Features

  • Eight deleted scenes with optional commentary
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • "Te Waka: Building the Canoe" featurette
  • Art and photo gallery
  • Whale Rider: The Soundtrack Showcase

Product Details

  • Actors: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene
  • Directors: Niki Caro
  • Producers: Frank Hubner, Tim Sanders, Bill Gavin, John Barnett
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: October 28, 2003
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (460 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000CABBW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,287 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Whale Rider (Special Edition)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Niki Caro's "Whale Rider" (based on the novel by Witi Ihimaera) is an uplifting tale of tradition and inner strength. Twelve-year-old Pai (talented newcomer Keisha Castle-Hughes) lives with her grandparents in a rural New Zealand town. Pai's mother and twin brother died in childbirth, and her artist father took off for Europe, where he now has a new (pregnant) girlfriend. Pai's brother was supposed to be the next chief of her tribe, and with his death Pai's grandfather Koro searches for a new (male) leader, failing to see that it is Pai that possesses the courage and talents of a chieftain.
The movie is filled with a haunting soundtrack by Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard, including samples of traditional Maori music by Hirini Melbourne. The cinematography beautifully captures the many moods of light and shadow on mountains and sea, as well as stock footage of majestic whales. "Whale Rider" is an uplifting tale of love, loss, and courage, about tradition in the face of change, and believing in yourself.
2 Comments 96 of 104 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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OK, it's been a while since this movie came out, but I finally felt I had to put in my 2 cents because of some of the more recent reviews which are just plain ignant in places.

First of all, the capsule: This is one of the great, great movies of all time. It's much more subtle (and kinder) than Once Were Warriors but perhaps translates a little less immediately for people outside of Polynesia because Niki Caro, herself a Pakeha (British-descended, non-Maori) New Zealander, doesn't feel compelled to explain Maori culture to outsiders. This reflects the increasing familiarity of many New Zealanders of all races and cultural backgrounds with Maori culture and in this respect it is the most mature bicultural film to come out of Aotearoa. However, at the same time, this does make it a bit harder for the poor old foreigners to understand or feel the more nuanced parts of the wairua (spirit) of this movie.

This is a movie that is uplifting, humane and deeply emotional. Anyone who thinks there is a "man-bashing" agenda here must have brought that particular mindset in with them. There are plenty of men who support Pai in the movie: her dad, her uncle, her friend Hemi (in an ungainly, preteen kind of way). Anyway, I digress. This movie rocks, and Niki Caro, the cast, and especially Keisha Castle-Hughes (Pai), Rawiri Paratene (Koro) and Vicky Haughton (Nanny Flowers) deserve huge praise for their wonderful work.

On to the more cultural stuff: First of all, if anyone has said this before then my apologies, but Koro is a modern Maori even if he has some old-fashioned ideas. He lives in the 21st century and is dealing with 21st century issues. This idea that only white people or people who live in cities are modern is something that continues to annoy me intensely.
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5 Comments 38 of 39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Maori mythology comes to life in the form of Pai, granddaughter of the tribal chief. Tradition demands the next chief be a grandson, but Pai's twin brother and Mother died during childbirth. Left to live with her Grandparents Pai tries to prove her worthiness to her Grandfather but he insists his successor must be a male.

The Maori claim to be descendants of the legendary Paikea who came to New Zealand riding on the back of a whale. This coastal, fishing community has maintained their close spiritual tie with whales for over a thousand years, their mutual destinies forever linked.

When Koro (Pai's grandfather) decides to gather together all the young males of the tribe and teach them the "old ways" in the hopes of finding the next chief Pai tries to join the group but, is rudely dismissed by Koro. In desperation she cries out to the whales, asking for their assistance in her quest for acceptance.

Now it is up to the whales to decide who's to be the "chosen one." A massive herd answers her plea by grounding themselves on the beach. The whole community unite in an attempt to save these sacred giants, seeing their impending deaths as an apocalyptic omen for the Maori people. All their efforts fail and hope is lost until Pai realizes the moment of truth has finally arrived.

What a beautiful, poetic movie. Keisha Castle-Hughes is brilliant as Pai as is the whole cast. It might be a little slow for younger children, but overall a wonderful experience for a family to watch together. Buy this DVD, you'll come away with something new with each viewing.
Comment 44 of 47 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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In a New Zealand coastal community, the long-awaited arrival of a Maori tribe's next leader is frustrated when the male grandchild of the Maori Chief dies in childbirth, along with his mother, leaving a surviving twin sister. The infant's father, Porourangi (Cliff Curtis) names the girl Paikea after the first Maori of legend who came to New Zealand on the back of a whale, the name intended for her deceased brother. Unable to face his father's expectations and tribal life after the death of his wife and son, Porourangi leaves New Zealand to pursue a career abroad and leaves his young daughter in the care of her grandparents, Koro (Rawiri Paratene), the tribe's Chief, and Nanny Flowers (Vicky Haughton). The precocious and fearless child, whom everyone calls Pai, wins the heart of her grandparents. But her grandfather still openly laments that Pai is not a boy who could inherit the responsibilities of chief, and he is anxious about his people's fate without a leader to guide them. When Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is 12 years old, she begins to think that she might be that leader, in spite of her gender. And her refusal to yield to the traditions which prohibit her from assuming a leadership role threaten to irreparably damage her relationship with her grandfather.
"Whale Rider" is inspired by the children's novel of the same name by Maori novelist Witi Ihimaera. It was adapted for the screen and expertly directed by New Zealander Niki Caro. This is a very lyrical film that is perfectly paced, so the audience never has a chance to get bored. The characters are all down-to-earth people who are nevertheless not simplistic, and each is sympathetic in his or her own way. The beautiful imagery of the New Zealand coast and the Maori traditions are a pleasure to watch.
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Topic From this Discussion
too predictable
The ancient Greeks watched theater with no surprises. All our fairy tales are obvious and no surprise tales. You can call Whale Rider predictable and unrealistic; someone else will call it mythic. Myths FEEL RIGHT, they don't surprise. Yeah, and they're often not "realistic" which... Read More
Oct 7, 2006 by David K Abraham |  See all 4 posts
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