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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Courage and belief in yourself are core messages. Perseverance, cooperation, resourcefulness, and love of family are all present as well. One key to both the main character and the story is empathy. Animals are hunted out of necessity, not for pleasure.
Positive Role Models
Main character has many positive qualities, including courage, perseverance, empathy. His parents are loving, teach him well.
Violence & Scariness
It's a survival story, so main character and his wolf ally face significant, intense peril, including cliff falls, animal attacks, exposure to the elements, hunger and thirst, lingering injuries, illness. Animals are killed out of necessity. In one scene, teens are briefly beaten by adults as part of a rite of passage, but it's not done viciously and not shown closely (it's out of focus in the frame).
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None; the dialogue is in an invented prehistoric language with English subtitles.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Alpha is an intense survival adventure about a prehistoric teen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who forms the first human-canine bond with a wolf while trying to make it home. Expect significant, frequent peril to both the boy and the wolf, including cliff falls, animal attacks, lingering injuries, exposure, deprivation, and illness. Animals are killed out of necessity. Teens are beaten by adults as part of a rite of passage, but briefly and not viciously (the scene is actually out of focus). But there's no sex, language, or substance use, and the film has strong themes of courage, perseverance, and empathy. Note: The film's dialogue is subtitled. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a ripping good adventure yarn with memorable visuals and an original premise and feel. Alpha presents a plausible take on the origins of the human-canine bond -- but more importantly, it's an absorbing survival tale with an appealing main character and a wolf that everyone will root for. Albert Hughes, directing without his brother Allen for the first time, uses extensive CGI to create a prehistoric setting that's simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, primal and fantastic. And McPhee is a remarkably sympathetic actor. As Keda, his courage and drive are entirely believable. Perhaps more importantly, so is his empathy -- you sees how this particular Cro-Magnon teen might have mercy on a wounded predator, then be receptive to allying with it. His performance is simple and grounded. You completely buy him speaking the film's invented language and enduring all the trials he faces with his wolf friend.
That said, authenticity isn't the key here. It's not a documentary; it's a boy-and-his-dog survival adventure, and it's plenty involving on that score. Jóhannesson, as the father, is also quite good. So are all the other humans, really. But Alpha is ultimately all about Keda and Alpha. Dog lovers will be all over this movie, and as long as younger viewers can handle the intensity of the peril, families will enjoy it too.
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.