A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Davy Crockett and the River Pirates is a 1956 Disney feature about the legendary Tennessee frontiersman. The G-rated material originally appeared on Disney's TV show between 1954 and 1955 as five one-hour adventures. Like the 1955 feature Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, this prequel is a re-edit of the popular TV material. Outdated cultural references ("Injuns" and "redskins"). Davy and company fight off river pirates with fists, cudgels, hatchets, guns, and a portable cannon. Hardworking men enjoy blowing off steam and drinking too much at the local saloon, and one drunk man finds himself swinging merrily from a chandelier.
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What's the story?
In DAVY CROCKETT AND THE RIVER PIRATES, Davy (Fess Parker) and his friend George Russell (Buddy Ebsen) are hunters aiming to bring their fur pelts they've caught to market in New Orleans by river boat. When boat captain Mike Fink (Jeff York) wants to overcharge for the ride, Davy and George look for another boat and learn that other crews have quit, owing to reported "redskin" attacks down river. Davy is skeptical. He knows the tribes in these parts and they're friendly. As he suspects, Native Americans aren't pirating the river boats. It's a gang of white men dressed as Native Americans, at once ruining the good name of the local tribes and also covering the criminals' true identities. After Davy and George race Mike to New Orleans, they part as friends. That's why Davy can call on Mike for help later after a local chief complains that his innocent men are being blamed for crimes being committed by white men. Using Mike's boat and advertising a story that they're carrying sacks of gold, Davy and company float down river waiting to ambush and expose their attackers. Fights ensue and Davy and his crew triumph over evil.
Is it any good?
This feels like a tame Indiana Jones story, with mild violence, comic relief, and sufficient heroics to keep young kids watching without scaring them too much. Davy is a good-humored sort who doesn't let a little hardship get him down; he's always willing to help someone in need. His sensible nature and instincts toward doing good make him someone parents will feel comfortable leaving with their kids. Davy Crockett and the River Pirates doesn't dwell as heavily on true-life exploits of the legendary Tennessee frontiersman-turned-Congressman-turned-warrior as 1955's Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier did. This one showcases Davy's homespun humor and easygoing nature.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the loyalty between Davy and his friend George Russell. What role does their deep friendship play in Davy Crockett and the River Pirates' appeal? Would Davy be as likable if he were a complete loner?
How did Davy turn the blustery and confrontational boat captain Mike into a friend?
Davy and George are self-sufficient in the wild, sleeping outdoors, catching their dinner, and taking care of themselves. Does life back in pioneer times as depicted in the movie look difficult? Do you think you could have survived back then?
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