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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Army Dog is a live-action movie that takes a father and his teen daughter on an adventure in a mountainous state park. They're joined by Connor, a golden retriever who served as the dad's partner during his U.S. Army stint in Afghanistan. Hoping to resolve his daughter’s jumbled feelings about his military service, as well as residual behavior problems from those feelings, the heroic dad hopes for a smooth bonding trip. Neither is prepared for the events that happen. Suspenseful and perilous moments include: multiple dream sequences that find the dad reliving or imagining danger during wartime; treacherous climbs, falls, and mishaps in the rugged terrain; and, finally, an encounter with what appears to be a predatory animal. No severe injuries or deaths occur. Messages -- about responsibility, empathy, and teamwork -- are solid.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
After a long tour in Afghanistan, soldier Tom Holloway (Casper Van Dien) returns home with Connor, his service dog partner in ARMY DOG. While his wife (Annemarie Pazmino) and daughter, Tara (Grace Van Dien), are overjoyed to have Tom back, there's an underlying tension in the house. Tara has struggled with Tom's absence; it's noticeable in her dealings with other kids, particularly the girls on her soccer team. Tara's relationship with Connor is shaky at first, though the dog is so relentlessly lovable that the teen is on the verge of being won over. Tom suggests a father-daughter-Connor camping weekend, hoping to give Tara space and to renew what were firm bonds before he left. Reluctantly, Tara goes along. What follows is an adventure with both joyful and frightening experiences. Through them all the teen learns about her dad, herself, and some of the wonders of being in the natural world.
Is it any good?
Though well-intentioned, with easily relatable characters, this competently made film lacks both subtlety and surprises. From a moment early in the film when Tara's soccer coach describes the girl's on- and off-the-field behavior, as soon as the audience is clearly shown her mixed feelings -- particularly about the dog -- the problem and the resolution are inevitable. Still, it's a compelling journey at times, with suspenseful, well-executed action sequences. The canine Connor is a star: beautiful, lovable, and smart. The Van Diens (real-life father and daughter) give it their all. Tara learns what she's supposed to learn; the family comes together with renewed emotions; and the state park, in all its beauty, remains a classroom for learning about responsibility and teamwork.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss the fact that in stories and fairy tales, wolves are often depicted as dangerous killers. Find out about actual wolf behavior and the very small chance that a wolf (especially one alone) would attack or stalk a human. Given the facts, do you understand Uncle Bill's decision at the movie's end? Do you agree or disagree with him?
A character arc (a person's "transformation or inner journey") is a primary element in almost all successful stories. Describe Tara's character arc.
Discuss the term "mixed emotions." Tara is overjoyed to have her dad home, but she's also dealing with lingering anger because of his absence. How did the movie attempt to show Tara's mixed emotions? When in your life have you experienced mixed emotions?
What is the appeal of dog movies? Why are there so many of them? How does this one compare?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.