A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 2015 TV movie version of Black Beauty shares little with Anna Sewell's 1877 children's classic, other than its name. There are a number of positive messages such as friendship, perseverance, and teamwork, as well as the need to show kindness to animals. However, these messages feel signposted. There is also some stereotyping, most notably James (Luke Perry), the overprotective father who makes reference to himself as the one who brings money into the home and as such his daughter, Audry (Jennifer Mckenzie) must live by "his rules." Though viewers don't see it, the physical abuse of a horse is discussed in some detail. Subsequently the horse is quick to distress and in one scene kicks out causing a bruise on a character's leg. Two teens flirt with one another although it's all fairly innocent. "Crap" and "God" are used occasionally as exclamations and one obnoxious character calls someone a "clumsy cow" and "loser."
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What's the story?
In BLACK BEAUTY, Audry (Jennifer Mckenzie), a city girl who feels closer to animals than her classmates, befriends a rescue horse from the animal pound she volunteers in. When Audry learns that the horse will be put down as a result of its injuries, she convinces her grandfather (Bruce Davison) -- who lives in the country -- to adopt the horse. Audry spends the summer at her grandfather's nursing the horse back to health, forming friendships she never thought possible.
Is it any good?
Though the movie's heart is in the right place, wooden acting, poor editing, and a weak script, make this 2015 TV movie a poor addition to the Black Beauty series. Characters are cliched -- from Luke Perry's overprotective father to the spoiled rich Blythe -- and relationships feel fake and unnatural. Audry's intermittent voiceover is unnecessary and subsequently annoying, spelling out the narrative that's playing out before our eyes. The same can be said for some of the dialogue with lines such as "It's not about the winning" and "I can do anything a boy can do" hammering home messages that have already been made clear.
Underneath these shortcomings lie a number of positive messages; friendship, teamwork, and determination. It's just a shame they are so overstated. Viewers who tune in to see galloping horses will also be disappointed, with Beauty being limited to close-ups with none of the birds-eye sweeping shots that have become accustomed with other Black Beauty movies. A disappointing addition to the series.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship between Audry and Beauty in Black Beauty. What do they learn from each other? What else can we learn from animals?
Audry and her friends show both perseverance and teamwork when helping nurse Beauty back to health. Why are there important character strengths?
Discuss Audry's father. Did you like him? Does he feel like a stereotype? Why are gender stereotypes problematic?
- On DVD or streaming: July 16, 2015
- Cast: Luke Perry, Bruce Davison, Jude S. Walko
- Director: Daniel Zirilli
- Studio: Barnholtz Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Horses and Farm Animals, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild thematic elements
- Last updated: January 15, 2020
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