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What to know: Beautiful visuals, music and intriguing storyline based on the books.
BOXCARE CHILDREN, THE: SURPRISE ISLAND is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
Recommended age 6-14
60 minutes
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BOXCARE CHILDREN, THE: SURPRISE ISLAND cover image Click to play video trailer
Summer is just around the corner, and there's no better way to start it than by watching this alluring animated film. I could not stop smiling the entire time, because I felt as if I was at the beach, enjoying my summer vacation. With humorous jokes, unexpected challenges and adorable animals, you will become captivated for the full hour and a half. If you are trying to figure out your fun plans for summer vacation, all you need to do is watch this film.

The Alden children have just begun their summer vacation and are truly ecstatic. After running home joyfully to see their grandfather, the kids are presented with exciting news - they are going to spend summer break on their grandfather's secret island. Little do they know, their summer will be filled with marvelous adventures, since they have to do everything on their own. But, the kids end up meeting a boy living on the island named Joe, who has a hidden secret. Join Benny, Henry, Jessie and Violet (four orphaned brothers and sisters) as they have the vacation of a lifetime.

Benny, played by Carter Sand, is such an optimistic, inquisitive young boy. He always wants to help his family, such as asking to drive his grandfather's boat. Jessie, played by Joey King, is a responsible girl with a big heart. She looks out for Benny and gives him his teddy bear when he needs it. I admire her compassion, because she exemplifies the perfect sister. John Alden, played by Dane DeHaan, is humble and thoughtful. He plants an entire garden for the kids to admire. I cannot wait to have my own garden when I am older.

The animation is impeccable. For a few moments during the film, I felt as if I had time traveled from the movie theater to the beach. I could not help but envision myself next to waves, listening to the beautiful sounds of nature. My favorite part is when all of the kids make their own first dinner. Once they sit down at the table, they begin feeding their dog some bread. This is hilarious, because it reminds me of how I always feed my dogs extra food. Dogs are adorable, and, no matter how much food you give them, they will always beg for more.

The message of this film is that when you work as a team, anything is possible. No matter what challenges there are in this world, you can transcend them. Life is short, so we need to make the best of it. Next time you feel that the world is not on your side, just remember that everything happens for a reason. These kids teach us to enjoy summer vacation and to never give up. If they can do this, so can we.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 6 to 12. It is the perfect family-friendly film, because you will see how important family truly is to the Alden children. This film will be offered as an after school by Fathom Events for one day only, on May 8th, 2018. So, go check it out. If you are ever stuck on an island, don't worry. This film will show you how to make an island your next home.

By Samantha M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Surprises, mysteries and new things to explore sounds like a lot of fun for the Boxcar Children so I suggest joining them on this new adventure to a mysterious island. I really enjoyed the funny characters, amazing animation and unique story line - all of which bring this film and its story to life.

One thing that is mind blowing about this film is the animation. While I watched it, I noticed all the tiny details and how lifelike the characters look. I believed multiple times that I was actually exploring the island with them and felt like I was part of the action. The animation is that good. There is lots of eye candy to look at with great depth so it almost seems to be in 3D even though it isn't. This makes the film very enjoyable and it widens the age rage so older kids would enjoy it as well as younger ones.

Carter Sand as Benny is just adorable. He is very quirky and reminds me of my younger friends. I also like him because he is good hearted and loves his siblings as much as the whole wide world. That is a trait that I think we all should share. J. K. Simmons as Dr. Moore is superb. I did a Farmers commercial once with Mr. Simmons and found him as charming off screen as on. He was an absolute pleasure to work with.

Joey King as Jessie is a smart, lovely young lady. I have interviewed her many times and she is just adorable and personable. The only difference is that last time I saw her she was wearing reindeer ears and in this film she is the older sibling who knows how to cook. I like seeing her cook delicious foods from scratch such as clam chowder, cooked peas and carrots, apple pie and other foods. It made me hungry for dinner.

Martin Sheen as James Alden plays a gracious and kind character. Everyone would love a grandfather like him because he is so kind to others, especially his grandchildren. He is willing to do anything to make them happy and even takes them to a special island for the summer. That is what I call great grand parenting.

One thing that I don't like about this film is that the story is sometimes way too slow. Also, they have a mystery that they discover that goes unsolved. It is weird that the story didn't pursue that. It showed up and then they just dropped it. Other than that, the film is adorable and has a lot heart for families.

I recommend this film for ages 5 to 12 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. This will play in more than 700 theaters as an after school screening on May 8, thanks to Fathom Event. So, go check it out!

Reviewed by Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

The film, The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island is based on the second book in the series by Gertrude Chandler. In this series and film, the children now have a home with their grandfather (Martin Sheen).

The first surprise comes when the children learn that they'll be spending the summer on a private island belonging to their grandfather. Once on the island they meet Joe, an overseer of the island. During their visit, they turn an old barn into their home base and explore throughout the island. The children encounter many surprises as they cope with living on their own (as they always have), survive a perilous event and have many other adventures. Near the end of the film, a final secret "surprise" involving Joe is revealed.

The success of the book series is a definite draw and the "Surprise" feature will definitely entice young people towards the film. In many ways, the film comes across as very sophisticated and smart. It does not "dumb down" to the viewer. It is equally enticing for adults for those reasons. It is also very scenic and takes the viewer away as they envision themselves on the island with these characters. One drawback is that the plot is slow in developing, which could be a problem for some viewers. The CGI visuals are amazing and the sound quality is exceptional, especially the song that plays during the closing credits.

I recommend this film for ages 6 to 14 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. Fathom Events will be offering a special after school screening in 700+ theaters nationwide on May 8, 2018 so, be sure to look for one near you.

Reviewed by Kimberly M., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

One of the most-read children's book series of all time comes alive on the big screen in the Boxcar Children - Surprise Island based on the second book from the series by Gertrude Chandler, featuring the voice talents of Martin Sheen, J.K. Simmons, Griffin Cluck, Joey King, Dane DeHaan and more! The Alden children have a home with their grandfather now - but their adventures are just beginning! The first surprise comes when they learn they'll be spending the summer on their private island. A kind stranger who lives there is always happy to help the children out, but does this new friend have a secret?
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