A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chihuahua: The Movie attempts to show that even bad, selfish people can reform and develop compassion and decency, but it does so by depending on a weak, inexplicable, and unconvincing magical plot device. A selfish person is turned into a Chihuahua therapy dog; parents will roll their eyes, but some kids may enjoy the idea of a human trapped inside a small dog. The story has a faintly religious air to it, in the vein of the old Touched by an Angel television series in which angels arrive to help people in trouble. Be aware that an important character dies, which may upset young children. Kids may be confused about how the character comes back to life, since it's never explained.
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What's the story?
Sondra (Anya Benton) is a successful nutritionist who is so focused on her own career and personal needs that she doesn't have time to listen to her boyfriend's feelings. She runs a tight ship and keeps meticulous to-do lists, then nonchalantly decides to fire her assistant when the assistant forgets to write down an appointment. Slowly it's revealed that grumpy Sondra had been a happy child until she became ill and her medical bills depleted her parents' finances, leading to their bitter divorce. A childhood friend shows up from the past and, rubbing a crystal, causes Sondra to grab her head in pain, stagger and fall, then convulse into a coma. For most of the story, she's hooked to a respirator, lying motionless in a hospital bed. Sondra's sweet assistant, Jeannie (Renee Pezotta), owns Bella the Chihuahua, a therapy dog. As Sondra is incapacitated, her persona jumps into Bella, and all manner of fussy and complaining commentary begin to zip through the mind of the dog. As Bella, Sondra is forced to help seriously ill, hospitalized children cope with their conditions. Gradually, Sondra learns compassion from the experience. Her journey to goodness is quickened as she overhears conversations about her unpleasantness from everyone who knew her. She dies and comes back much nicer.
Is it any good?
It would be difficult to find a more badly written, directed, and acted movie than this. Performances are amateurish across the board with the exception of Pezotta as Jeannie. But more worrisome is the inanity of the plot, the unquestioned acceptance of the "magic" that causes the main character's weird ordeal and ultimate rehabilitation. If this is meant to be a religious film, than it should have said so. At least the otherworldly emphasis would seem rooted in some philosophy. No one questions Sondra's return from the dead; Sondra doesn't question how she became a dog. Absent the mention of where Sondra's great punishment and redemption come from, the movie makes little sense.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether some people who hurt others might be mean because they were hurt themselves. Would that make it OK to hurt others? Why, or why not?
Sometimes people become so caught up in their own problems that they can't see how others are suffering. Is it possible for selfish people to learn compassion if they meet others who are suffering more?
Would it be possible for a human to be trapped in the body of a dog? Do you think the movie wants you to believe that such a thing could happen?
For kids who love animal tales
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