Bark Ranger

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Bark Ranger Movie Poster Image
Slapstick dog adventure with some potty humor is silly fun.
  • PG
  • 2015
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Meant to entertain, not educate,

Positive Messages

Stay focused on goals; follow-through is important. Good defeats evil.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroes (a boy, a girl, and a dog) are resourceful, persistent in reaching for their goals, and loyal to one another. Boy's parents are reliable, understanding, and competent. Girl's single mom is a devotee of all things new age. Villains are bumbling, brainless, and clumsy. No ethnic diversity.

Violence & Scariness

Slapstick action. Dimwitted, comic criminals frequently fall, get bonked on the head, hit in the groin, chased by a dog, bit on the backside, and so on. The two heroic kids are briefly held captive by the villains. A spooky shack contains a skeleton and spider webs. A couple of kid bullies menace the young hero. 

Sexy Stuff
Language

Potty humor: "poop in pants." Lame-brain villain insults his even lamer-brain brother, remarking upon his stupidity and incompetence. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bark Ranger is another in the live-action, popular "talking dog joins up with good kids against bumbling criminals" genre. There's nothing like some really boneheaded bad guys tripping over themselves, making one bad decision after another, and farting and burping their way into the hands of the law to provide lowbrow laughs for primary and middle school-age kids. The requisite farcical action sequences -- chases, tripping, falling, head bonks, groin smashes, bullies on the prowl, and a skeleton popping up -- are intact here, along with two always brave kids on a quest to save the "family farm," which in this case is a national park with financial problems. And shoring up the humor while keeping tabs on the plot with a sassy worldview is Ranger, a beautiful talking dog voiced by Jon Lovitz. Nothing is truly suspenseful or frightening here; no antics result in injuries, and the villains are never more than inept clowns. 

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What's the story?

An idyllic national park is in danger of losing its funding in BARK RANGER. Jack Keller (Lucius Hoyos) lives in that park with his forest ranger dad and mom, along with his BFF Ranger, a dog who, even though Jack doesn't know it, keeps up an amiable conversation with the world around him. Though Jack partly wishes he lived in a city instead of the quiet of the park and its adjacent small town, when he learns that they may have to move, his path becomes clear. He'll do just about anything to save the park his family has tended for generations. Not too far away, the felonious Festrunk Brothers are hiding out in the park with a carload of gold bars they've stolen. When Jack and a new friend, Chloe (Zoe Fraser), unexpectedly come upon a map that may lead them to a legendary treasure, the two kids are sure to cross paths with the two brainless baddies. And cross paths they do -- especially when the Festrunks realize their gold bars would be mightily enhanced by the buried treasure the kids are searching for. Two gold treasures, two half-wits, two motivated kid investigators, and one highly articulate dog lead to a spirited confrontation with much at stake for everyone.  

Is it any good?

Bark Ranger is better than it should be, because it actually has some funny moments. Rather than simply being over-the-top, exaggerated simpletons, the two villains (Marty Adams and Jason Blicker) perform with some genuine gusto and even clowning expertise. Plus, the likable kids who depend on their wits, courage, and the wisecracking dog (voiced by Jon Lovitz) are a step above the usual unpolished performers in this genre. Though entirely predictable and derivative, for kids who understand real vs. pretend danger and who think farting, having a gurgling stomach, eating dog food, and pooping in one's pants are hilarious, this is the real deal. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the timeliness of including bullies in movies for kids. Has seeing such stories raised your awareness of the dangers of bullying? Have you noticed positive changes in your own attitude or in your school because the popular media has made bullying a prominent issue?

  • How does it serve a filmmaker's purpose to make the villains in movies like this one foolish and laughable? How would it change the movie if the criminals were competent and dangerous? Would the story still have kid appeal and be suitable for them?

  • List some of the story elements and characters here that have appeared in many other movies (examples: a talking dog, hidden treasure, bullies). Do you prefer familiar stories or stories that are original? What are the merits of each type?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love slapstick comedy

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