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The Tiger’s Apprentice

Content Caution

The Tiger's Apprentice 2024


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Bob Hoose

Movie Review

As a baby, Tom was left in his grandmother’s care. But make no mistake: Grandma Lee is quite a capable guardian. The fact is, she’s been guarding things for far longer than young Tom has been around.

That’s because Mrs. Lee is the guardian of something very special, something ancient, something capable of creating and destroying, well, all of mankind. And she keeps it hidden safely away.

Besides, even when the evil spirits in the world swoop in upon a vulnerable grandmother and her grandson, Mrs. Lee has another layer of protection.

Chinese legend tells of the Zodiac, a collection of 12 animal warriors: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Despite their mythical status, they are very real and ready to fight the glowering denizens of darkness. And they do just that one black night while little Tom is defenseless in his grandmother’s care.

Jump ahead 15 years, and Tom remembers nothing of that long-ago night. He only knows a life of being bullied at school because of his now elderly and eccentric grandmother’s idiosyncrasies.

She has a penchant for covering their house, inside and out, with talismans, amulets and charms. The neighbors can’t help but take notice. And Tom can’t help but constantly rip those talismans down and throw them away.

That isn’t such a great idea, however. For after Tom gets in yet another fight, something odd happens. He somehow flings his tormentor into the ceiling. And dark spirits take notice.

Then, without charms to ward it away, the darkness comes to visit.

It might be time for the Zodiac Twelve, or at least what’s left of them, to come to the rescue once again.

Positive Elements

When Tom becomes aware of the powerful spirits and creatures in his orbit, he initially meets up with Hu, the tiger. And though the two don’t always see eye to eye, Hu eventually becomes a mentor and father figure to the teen.

Several different people, including Mrs. Lee and Hu, are willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of others.

Spiritual Elements

This entire tale is based on the fantastical elements of Chinese mysticism. The Zodiac Twelve have the ability to jump back and forth between human and animal form. And they each have a special power. The goat can cause explosions with his screech, for instance, and the monkey can shrink things she touches.

A powerful woman named Loo is the evil counterpart to those good creatures. She wields powerful blasts of magic and an umbrella that can draw creatures directly into its weave. Loo also has the ability to unleash hordes of dark fashu, spirits from a netherworld dimension.

A kid calls Tom’s grandmother a witch. And she later says, “Maybe I am a witch.” We see her summon up blasts of energy from her palms. (An ability that Tom later learns.) She also tells Tom that she believes deeply that people are “inherently good.” After his first display of spiritual power, Tom is told, “You walk two worlds now: the mortal world and the world of magic.”

When someone important dies, a glowing animal-like entity descends from the heavens. And we’re told this “Ghost Cart” is used to “carry away the souls of the great and noble.” Tom is given a small magic bag that holds a large sword. During his training, Tom learns about chi lines (strings of magical energy) that can help him levitate items, shoot chi blasts and create protection bubbles.

We discover that Mrs. Lee had, at one point in her life, brought someone back to life by giving up part of her soul for him. Later, this person does the same thing for Tom. Tom also meets up with Empress Nü Kua, a goddess who appears to rule over a spiritual world of life and death. This world is also home to the Sea of Tears, the final resting place for the souls of the dead. Tom protects and enlivens a Phoenix entity.

[Spoiler Warning] Mrs. Lee states that she and Tom are part of a bloodline assigned the duty of protecting a special artifact called the Phoenix. This necklace was used to create mankind, we’re told. And, in the wrong hands, it can be used to eliminate mankind.

Sexual Content


Violent Content

Loo, Tom, and Mrs. Lee all have the ability to project magical blasts with the power to destroy. In one case, a house erupts with an otherworldly flame during one such battle. (Someone is killed during that attack.)

Dark spirit creatures also swarm, attack and claw at people. A parade of humans is battered and sent tumbling by one such attack. Loo uses the power of a special necklace to suck the life energies from scores of humans. And that same power eventually blasts someone to ash.

During a training session, Tom must avoid sharp spikes and scores of launched blades. Tom and the Zodiac Twelve launch into repeated thumping and slashing battles with Loo and her dark entities. Someone nearly drowns in a flooded room.

Crude or Profane Language

There’s one exclamation of “crap” in the dialogue, along with uses of “oh my gosh,” “holy shrimp-fried rice” and, “What the heck?” Someone references another character’s “sorry butt.”

Drug and Alcohol Content


Other Negative Elements

After being dropped into a trash dumpster, Hu stands up and winces at stepping on a used diaper. Tom is initially something of a rebellious teen who refuses to listen. Because of this he sets off on his own to do something he believes is righteous, but ends up causing harm.


You might expect that Paramount’s The Tiger’s Apprentice would pack quite a punch for animation fans. After all, it’s brightly colored and fast paced, and it features a very talented voice cast (including the likes of Michelle Yeoh, Lucy Liu and Henry Golding).

However, this pic is missing a few important dramatic pieces: namely, story and character.

Yes, there are some self-sacrificial acts amidst the mystical and magical struggle. But we’re not given many reasons to care about any of them. This pic feels like a poorly written attempt at creating something in the vein of Kung Fu Panda.

Speaking of that mystical struggle, the story’s Chinese mythology is the main content concern parents will want to be mindful of. In some ways, the movie’s spiritual milieu might feel broadly parallel to Greek or Roman mythology—and be similarly navigable for many families. That said, the cosmology here revolves around Chinese spirituality that’s far removed from a Christian worldview.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.