Thabo and the Rhino Case bills itself as a “mystery family adventure.” A children’s movie if you will. Thus, grownups might not want to invest the time, and even though dealing with the very serious issue of poaching, they could be right. But the unique manner in which this children’s film presents itself still engages us as adults, while giving kids some very relatable young characters. So get the kids and solve the mystery – you won’t be disappointed by the Mara Eibl-Eibesfeldt feature.

Out of the black and into the credits, we quickly are able to verify the locale that the title implies. Exotic sounding birds chirping away in the dark, the uplifting African score surrounds and releases the glorious spirit of the living environment.

The visuals emerging, there’s a stillness in the Britta Mangold cinematography, and when the wildlife enters, the creatures almost seem like they’ve been photoshopped into the frame. Obviously not true, the portrait feels like a dream and warms our hearts in hope of a trip one day. But this film quickly dispatches a stereotype and does so throughout the remainder.

The media and popular culture has us believing that war, disease and suffering are around every single corner, and potential tragedy is part of the daily human regimen. So along side the music, the imagery and the sheer simplicity of the setting, our introduction to a more rounded reality comes in the form of the main character.

Thabo is an inquisitive, lively little boy, and Litlhohonolofatso Litlhakayane’s boundless performance reminds us of that kid who has his hands into everything. Like his counterparts everywhere, he’s probably no stranger to Marvel Movies and wants to be the hero who saves the world from injustice. So when Thabo’s detective work hits walls, the young actor never feels boxed in, and the cement must crumble in his wake.

Of course, that’s only possible if a nurturing and safe community provides the opportunity to dream, and the film lets us know that Thabo has one.

First we meet his Uncle Vusi (Nhlakanipho Manqele). The park ranger for the reserve, Manqele takes to heart in the awesome responsibility he’s been given and proceeds with a boy like wonder. So his presentation to outsiders comes across like he’s welcoming them into his playpen, and no one is left out.

In turn, Thabo slides right in as his Uncle’s protege and almost takes on the role of a co-worker. All told, Manqele’s joyful indulgence and guidance of the boy reminds us of that relative who sees us like no other.

Not done, Aunt Agatha (Andrea Sawatzki) enters, and disproving the idea that only black people live in Africa, she’s part of the caring community too. Sawatzki evokes the adult who knows how to playfully indulge a child’s naiveté without him or her actually knowing it. Thus, Thabo’s adventurous spirit is nurtured, while the excesses of childhood are reigned in with a loving hand.

More importantly, she provides him a little companion and like a boy, he isn’t so sure the visiting niece can sync up. “But she’s a girl,” Litlhakayane might not even be acting.

Partners in crime so to speak, Emma blends right in, and Ava Skuratowski’s easy way makes us feel like we could be her in this foreign environment.

The young actress doesn’t get ahead of herself either, and with an endearing and agreeable screen presence, she doesn’t overshadow her hosts. She waits until the investigation gets into gear and takes her place along side the rest of her co-equal contemporaries.

The main players put in place, the usual suspects are next. Entering the fray to safari the preserve, the group of tourists soothe us like we’re along for a fun ride, and the quirky musical composition reiterates the sentiment.

Not so fast, a dead rhino suddenly disturbs the picturesque presentation, and it’s no longer child’s play. Shock and dismay all around, the rhino case is on and the kiddie task force goes into gear. Of course, the stakes go up when the initial evidence points in a direction that the kids don’t agree with, and on cue, their prepubescent injustice pheromones take over.

Even so, the kids are not crazed and follow the facts like good detectives. But they’re still kids and can’t help have their undeveloped sense of the world lead them astray at various points.

As a result, the unfolding of events comes off as very genuine, and in this, the film tiptoes the line between a children’s movie and an adult movie.

The same goes for the adults in their way. Typically, the grownups are completely incompetent and simply become humorous fodder for the mastery of the children’s overplayed ingenuity. Instead, children can actually see themselves in the flawed main characters, and despite the shortcomings on view, adults recognize the idealistic passion we cherish from our time around them.

In the end, justice is obviously going to get its proper due, and service to the main audience, the young investigators land in the forefront. After all, Thabo and his friends shared enough of the spotlight already, and it makes sense that they leave us elders wanting more of what they bring.