A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 Don Bluth animated feature in which a dog who owns a casino cheats death and must find a way to redeem himself and make amends for his bad behavior. The dogs are parodies of Prohibition-era gangsters -- they smoke and drink, lie, cheat, steal, commit arson, and try to kill each other. Dogs are shown at the casino bar acting extremely drunk, falling over, passing out. The lead character dog is shown drunk and singing, and there's cigar smoking, including scenes in which the lead antagonist dog blows smoke in the face of a little orphan girl. This little girl has been kidnapped by dogs and forced to use her ability to communicate with animals to tell the dogs which animals are going to win at the races. This little orphan girl nearly drowns in flaming water in another scene. There's some potentially frightening imagery (demons pursue Charlie in a fiery nightmare) and some racial stereotyping: For a brief moment, one of the characters morphs into a racist caricature of an Asian. Parents who grew up watching this movie might be shocked at much of the content, and could use this as an opportunity to discuss how some content, behavior, and stereotyping that was permissible in the past is no longer tolerated.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Charlie B. Barkin (voiced by Burt Reynolds) and his pal Itchy (Dom DeLuise) break out of prison after being framed by Charlie's partner, Carface. When Charlie tries to reclaim his share of the casino they ran, Carface has him killed. Charlie goes to Heaven, which he finds way too dull. He returns to Earth by stealing his life span watch. Charlie rebuilds his empire with the help of Itchy and Anne-Marie, an orphan girl who can talk to animals. Charlie uses her to get horse-racing information while emptily promising to help her find new parents.
Is it any good?
There are many odd segments in ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN that seem to complicate, not extend, the plot. But this doesn't seem to bother younger viewers, who enjoy having their shorter attention spans tweaked. The key of the film is its uplifting message that people (and dogs) can always follow through on their word and be redeemed. Despite his selfish deeds, Charlie eventually does the right thing, and earns back his place in heaven, while Carface is carted off, presumably to be eaten by a crocodile.
Many don't seem to mind the film's darkness, which is set in an urban world of poverty that couldn't contrast more with the squeaky-clean suburban normality of most kids' movies. It helps that the characters and backgrounds are drawn with entrancing style, and that the story isn't as grim as the setting might suggest. But more sensitive children may be disturbed by the depiction of death and violence.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how drinking and smoking is shown in this movie. Should entertainment for kids show characters drinking and smoking, even if it's meant to represent or parody characters from a certain time and place (e.g., Prohibition-era gangsters)?
If this movie came out today, what do you think would be different?
How does Charlie change for the better during the movie? How does the movie express the theme of forgiveness?
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