Parents' Guide to

Otter 501

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 7+

Informative otter docu best for older animal-loving kids.

Movie G 2012 87 minutes
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Despite the appealing central character and the adorable animals on display, Otter 501 requires patience and a long attention span to make it worthwhile. Even though Katie is young and spends a lot of time sharing her experiences on Facebook and via text, it's obvious that a lot of what she's saying is scripted, because it sounds almost like she's acting instead of just being herself. It takes a while to get used to the movie's hybrid format; those who prefer a traditional, distinguished-sounding narrator might be confused or bothered by Katie's presence.

In a more traditional documentary, the filmmakers would have interviewed the aquarium staff and spoken to various academics who could put the historical significance of sea otters in context. In Otter 501, Katie and computer graphics and archive photos provide the exposition whenever the camera isn't focused on the otters themselves. Observant audiences will learn a great deal about what makes otters such a miraculous species (did you know the great otter hunt of the 19th century helped finance the Industrial Revolution?), but younger kids (and some parents) might find the nearly 90-minute exploration of the endangered species a bit of a stretch.

Movie Details

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