Mia and the White Lion Parent Guide
This girl-and-her-lion movie has some negative messages that might surprise parents.
Parent Movie Review
Eleven-year-old Mia (Daniah DeVilliers) is unhappy. Having grown up in London, she has been homesick since her South African father, John (Langley Kirkwood), moved the whole family back home to run the lion farm he inherited. Then a miracle occurs and a million-to-one white lion cub is born on their farm. Everyone is excited – except for Mia. But the Charlie the lion cub has a charming little furry face and they form a powerful bond.
At first, Mia’s parents are pleased that the cub has helped her feel at home in South Africa. But as Charlie grows, Mia refuses to acknowledge that he is a wild animal and can’t be a house pet forever. When Charlie is removed from the house and put in the pen with the other cubs, Mia runs away from a school field trip and hitchhikes home to be with her lion. She defies her father’s warnings about the dangers of wild animals and insists that her father doesn’t know what he’s talking about: “Rules don’t apply to us. My relationship with Charlie isn’t built on discipline. It’s built on love and trust.” When John discovers the extent of his daughter’s disobedience and the peril to which she has exposed herself and her brother, Mick (Ryan MacLennan), he decrees the immediate sale of the now grown white lion. Learning about Charlie’s likely fate, fourteen-year-old Mia decides that her only hope is to take Charlie to a nature reserve where he will be free to live in the wild – no matter what it takes.
This film may sound like a heartwarming
boy and his dog girl-and-her-lion story. But there are some very troubling aspects to this production which should give parents pause before they buy tickets for the whole family. First and most obvious is Mia’s cavalier attitude towards safety around her adored lion. Now, I don’t have any experience with lions. But I live in bear country and have known since childhood that all bears are wild and dangerous and are to be given a very wide berth. John repeatedly tells Mia that you can’t tame lions, but she flatly refuses to believe him. Second, Mia seems to exist in a world of willful delusion. She and Mick both believe wholeheartedly in a legend that says a white lion will come, save the world, and bring nature back in harmony. She is convinced that her reckless choices will turn out just fine because Charlie is the incarnation of the legend. The third issue is Mia’s constant disobedience and disregard for her own safety. The hitchhiking episode made by blood run cold but her flight to the sanctuary with Charlie is even worse. Pulling this off involves Mia shooting her father with a tranquilizer gun, stealing his truck, driving across the country even though she doesn’t have a driver’s license, walking through a shopping mall with her lion, and heading off into the bush without safe drinking water or adequate food – for her or for the lion. Mia is clearly a very flawed protagonist whose choices are certainly fodder for parent/child conversations.
Whether parents want to take their kids to Mia and the White Lion will likely depend on their sympathy with the film’s message. And make no mistake, this is a movie with a message. The writers are deeply concerned about the danger lions face from hunters, with special condemnation for canned hunting (the practice of putting lions in enclosures to be shot by big-game hunters who have paid huge sums for the guaranteed trophy kill). Unfortunately, the film tries a bit too hard and instead of sharing its message it bludgeons the audience with it. In communications terms, this is overkill.Directed by Gilles de Maistre. Starring Daniah de Villiers, Melanie Laurent, Langley Kirkwood. Running time: 98 minutes. Theatrical release April 12, 2019. Updated April 12, 2019
Watch the trailer for Mia and the White Lion
Mia and the White Lion
Rating & Content Info
Why is Mia and the White Lion rated PG? Mia and the White Lion is rated PG by the MPAA for thematic elements, peril and some language
Violence: Hunks of dead animals are often thrown to captive lions. A lion is shown hunting and eating an ostrich. Lions are shown scratching another cub and bloody scratches are shown on his muzzle. A young girl has her arm scratched by a lion. A lion farm employee is attacked and clawed by a lion. She is injured but the blood is only seen at a distance. A lion tries to a television set and then climbs on the table and eats dinner. A lion mauls a car. A boy rushes out of a lion’s cage, falls and hits his head. A main character hits another man. On another occasion, he slams him into a car. A man utters threats against a main character. A woman shoots a crossbow at a lion and a man shoots it with a firearm. The lion is shown dead but there is no close-up view of its injuries. A girl opens wild animal cages and lets lions and other animals go free on a farm. A girl shoots her father with a tranquilizer gun. A man yells at and throws a teenage girl. She spits in his face. A character refers to a lion hunt that traumatized a child. Police in cars and helicopters point guns at a lion.
Sexual Content: A man leers at a woman and hugs her even though she is clearly uncomfortable.
Profanity: This movie has four scatological terms, a half dozen terms of deity, a handful of mild obscenities and some name-calling.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Parents drink champagne at a celebratory family dinner. Wine glasses are on a dinner table but no one is shown drinking them. A man is shot with a tranquilizer gun.
Other: A young girl runs away from a school field trip and hitchhikes to get back home. A boy has nightmares and panic attacks. A girl stows away in a truck. A 14 year old without a driver’s license drives a stolen truck and lion across the country. She is so tired she falls asleep at the wheel. A girl walks through a shopping center with a lion.
Page last updated April 12, 2019
Mia and the White Lion Parents' Guide
If you are interested in learning more about saving lions, check out the following links:
Loved this movie? Try these books…
A white lion turns up in Michael Morpurgo’s novel, The Butterfly Lion. Young Bertie becomes friends with an orphaned white lion cub he has rescued from the South African wilderness. But then he is sent to boarding school in far away England and the lion is sold to the circus. Bertie is determined to see his lion again.
A child finds solace in animals in A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz and Catia Chien. Based on Alan’s childhood, this book recounts how his stutter disappeared when he talked to animals. Troubled that the jaguars at the zoo seemed sad, he made it his life’s work to create a jaguar refuge in Central America. Suitable for young readers.
If your kids want to save the lions, turn to National Graphic Kids Mission: Lion Rescue: All About Lions and How to Save Them.
Related home video titles:
The classic film about the devastation of hunting is Disney’s Bambi.
In Two Brothers, lion cubs are again in danger, this time from treasure seekers and hunters in early 20th century in India.
In Happy Feet, the lives of penguins are imperiled by habitat destruction, specifically reduced fish stocks.