Dear Mr. Watterson

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Dear Mr. Watterson Movie Poster Image
Talky docu on Calvin & Hobbes cartoonist may bore kids.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 89 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The movie exalts art for art's sake, and the rejection of consumerism and marketing. The fact that Watterson stood firm in his decision not to license his characters, at great financial loss, stands as an example of purity in art.

Positive Role Models & Representations
Bill Watterson is totally unseen in this movie, not even in photographs, due to his beliefs about privacy. But his work and ideals are on display, and it's still possible to be inspired by his supreme artistry, his dedication to the craft, and his refusal to "sell out."
Violence
Sex
Language
One use of "bulls--t."
Consumerism
Though the movie is very anti-consumerist the movie does make you want to buy the many Calvin and Hobbes books that were released. (Or at least check them out of the library!)
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dear Mr. Watterson is a documentary about the creator of the great "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip, and while there's almost no objectionable content, kids will likely be bored by the talking head format. Be prepared for one use of the word "bulls--t," but other than that, the movie includes no sex or violence. It does have some very strong messages about art versus commerce, what it means to "sell out," and what it means to raise the bar on your particular profession. Fans of "Calvin and Hobbes" -- especially adults -- will enjoy this.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGreg R. July 27, 2018

A Look Into the Power Of A Comic Strip

Ahh Calvin and Hobbes, a comic strip about the limitless bounds of childhood, the uncertainty of it....and adding straight up philosophy and politics into the m... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old August 16, 2015

Over All Good Docu About A Truly Beautiful Comic Strip

This movie has more praise than actual information, which is why it does not get a higher rating. It, though, for what it does, it does right. As the common sen... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byCoolpool785 May 28, 2017

What's the story?

In 1985, a comic strip called "Calvin and Hobbes" appeared in a small number of newspapers. Its run ended in 1995, having become one of the most popular and beloved strips of all time, and, many believe, the greatest. Creator Bill Watterson -- who never appears in this movie -- viewed comics as an art form and held himself to that high bar, creating great jokes and visuals day after day. He inspired numerous others, and unlike many of his contemporaries, he refused to merchandise his characters, turning them into toys or lunch boxes, thereby keeping a kind of purity and control to his work. The movie also discusses the death of the art form of cartooning as we know it, and how "Calvin and Hobbes" might have been the last great comic strip.

Is it any good?

The intriguing DEAR MR. WATTERSON has two frustrating aspects: Most obviously, the reclusive Bill Watterson does not appear anywhere in the film. He's not even in photographs, though some of his quotes are printed onscreen. Secondly, director Joel Allen Schroeder -- whose first feature-length film this is -- fails to film the "Calvin and Hobbes" comics in a simple, straightforward way so that the audience can actually read them; instead, he keeps them moving around, adding digital effects for short attention spans.
 
And though the rest of the movie is presented in the typical talking-head format, the interviews are all enthusiastic and feature the faces behind many popular comic strips, including Berkeley Breathed ("Bloom County" and "Opus") and Stephan Pastis ("Pearls Before Swine"). The movie generates great excitement and awe over Watterson's work, especially when Schroeder is shown, white-gloved, poring over original strips. The movie definitely makes you want to read, or re-read, these classics.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Bill Watterson's decision not to merchandise his characters. Do you agree or disagree with him? What would you have done in his place?
  • Did you miss not seeing the actual Bill Watterson in this movie? Does the movie inspire you to become a cartoonist?

  • What does the movie say about the future of comic strips? Can comic strips exist in a digital world?

Movie details

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