A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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Positive Role Models
Flying Officer Freddie Hook is a newly qualified fighter pilot who seizes on the opportunity to fly home (by himself) to spend Christmas with his family. When his aircraft runs into trouble, he initially shows calmness in trying to rectify the situation before accepting his fate. A mysterious pilot comes to Hook's rescue and a fellow serviceman called Joe is kind and welcoming toward Hook. The epilogue mentions the sacrifice and bravery of real-life fighter pilots.
The main character is a young White British fighter pilot who appears in every scene. Two actors of color have speaking parts, one of whom has the role of air traffic controller. However, their lines are limited and their parts are of little consequence to the story. Female representation is limited to that of mother, sister, and girlfriend.
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Violence & Scariness
A young fighter pilot suffers mechanical failures while flying over the North Sea. Just as it appears they will run out of fuel and crash/eject, a mysterious pilot helps navigate them to safety. Reference to the deaths of pilots during World War II. A plaque on a wall lists various names and the ages of pilots that died. It's suggested that two characters are either ghosts or figments of someone's imagination. A snowball fight that is shown is later revealed to have injured someone's hand -- their arm is bandaged and in a sling.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A character writes a goodbye/love letter to their partner telling them that they love them.
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Some use of "bugger," "bloody," and "God" as an exclamation.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
People are seen drinking pints of beer at a Christmas Eve dance. A character pours someone a beer from a bottle.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Shepherd is a short movie by Disney about a British fighter pilot who, while flying back solo to his family for Christmas, suffers mechanical failures. Set in 1957 on Christmas Eve, Ben Radcliffe plays Flying Officer Freddie Hook who is guided to safety by a mysterious pilot (John Travolta). Hook's situation is momentarily perilous, but in the end nothing comes of it. There is reference to the death (and bravery) of pilots during World War II, including Hook's own father. Mild language includes occasional use of "bugger," "bloody," and "God." Some drinking of beer takes place, but not to excess. The film is only 38 minutes and will appeal to tweens, teens, and adults who like their Christmas stories with a touch of the fantasy and supernatural. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Adapted from a novella by Fredrick Forsyth, this short fantasy drama released by Disney has been a long time coming. Travolta, who plays the titular The Shepherd, first came across the story over 30 years ago. He had originally hoped to play the role of rookie fighter pilot Hook, who finds himself perilously running out of fuel over the North Sea on Christmas Eve, 1957. Instead that part is filled by Radcliffe, who gives an admirable performance in a role that sees him in every scene. This includes him having to deliver some incredibly exposition-heavy lines just to himself, such as "How can I land, if I've got no one to talk me down?" and "Hopefully someone will pick me up on radar. It's my only hope." Despite this jarring dialogue, the film -- at only 38 minutes -- flies along and Travolta reads the tone of the movie by giving a restrained but capturing performance. While it might not hit the heights of other classic Christmas shorts such as The Snowman, there's enough heart and intrigue here for a family viewing.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.