Casey's Shadow

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
Casey's Shadow Movie Poster Image
A complex tale of morals and animal cruelty.
  • PG
  • 1978
  • 117 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Ultimately the movie takes a strong stance against cruelty to animals, as Lloyd's desire to win leads to the horse's demise. Plenty of wagering on the horses.


A teenager complains that he will never get "laid" and that he's "horny."


Some mild swears.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The father drinks a fair bit.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a quite likable story about a man struggling to do the right thing by his horse -- and his sons. The birth of a colt, in all its messiness, may be too intense for younger children. The mare dies in childbirth. The mother has abandoned the family. The greed of trainers and abuse of horses is a strong theme. The father-son relationships are strong, but the pacing is a bit slow. Younger kids or easily-distracted children will lose interest. There's a nice teenage jockey angle that's likely to compel teens. All children interested in horses will enjoy this movie.

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What's the story?

In CASEY'S SHADOW, Lloyd Bourdelle (Walter Matthau) and his three sons hit pay dirt when they buy a cheap mare, bred to a top stud. The foal's hooves are soft and Lloyd gives up on the animal, but Casey, the youngest son, insists on training the colt regardless. The horse, Casey's Shadow, develops into a surefire winner and Lloyd enters the horse in the big money All-American race. But Casey injures the animal by running it too hard. Thinking that this is his last shot at glory and money, Lloyd decides to risk the horse and run him anyway. Casey's Shadow wins the race, but he's crippled. Against the advice of the vet, Lloyd asks for the leg to be reconstructed, spending all his winnings on the horse.

Is it any good?

Children used to contemporary movies with their obvious good guys and bad guys might feel a bit lost amid characters subtly questioning their moral principles. Lloyd is an uncommonly decent man who has paid a heavy price for his ethical approach to horse training: He's dirt poor, his wife has left him, and he gets no respect in the horse racing world. Faced with the possibility of a win, Lloyd reconsiders his life-long aversion to jeopardizing the health of a horse. He risks losing his self-respect and, more important, the respect of his three sons.

A 13-year-old girl viewer who has no connection to horses found Lloyd's moral quandary compelling, and she sat rapt through much of the movie. She was upset by the depiction of greedy owners who train horses too hard and race them too early. This teenager couldn't have agreed more with the harsh view the movie takes of this practice, summed up by the vet who declares: "It makes me g-d sick." As much as she liked the movie, the 13-year-old viewer noted that the story moves slowly and is somewhat unfocused.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they would risk to be a winner.

Movie details

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