Derby Dogs

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Derby Dogs Movie Poster Image
Brief profanity, crassness in otherwise uplifting tale.
  • PG
  • 2013
  • 87 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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

Positive Messages

Derby Dogs offers positive messages about the grieving process and honoring someone's memory, what it means to be a winner, ethical behavior in competitions, and how we form alternate communities, particularly in the absence of a traditional nuclear family. It also deals with bullying and how to handle it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Parent characters, barring one exception, are extremely engaged and present and act as positive role models for teenagers. Children are well meaning and try to do the right thing, even when tempted or actively encouraged to take shortcuts or break the rules by others. Overall, kids don't always make the best choices -- there is some dishonesty, fighting, and sneaking around -- but the movie shows them engaged in clever problem solving and healthy exploration of boundaries. The movie also has great gender parity, with girls shown as active, involved, and equally respected.


Mild peril with slapstick humor and injuries throughout, and some fights related to bullying. In one scene, a kid challenges another kid and mocks his deceased father, and the mocked boy stomps on the bully's foot and shoves an ice cream cone into his face. The bully gets into a car, sails through a yield sign, and proceeds to chase the boy on a bike. The car chase causes a truck to crash into the pursuer, spilling out the contents of a couple of Port-a-Potties. A kid is punched in the nose. Some kids slip around on oil. A man gets stuck in a tire. In multiple scenes, derby cars crash into various objects on- or off-screen.


Minor brief profanity and insulting language throughout. In one scene, a girl refers to a boy who is afraid as a "p---y." In other scenes, boys insult other boys with terms such as "loser," "useless," and "dead meat."


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Derby Dogs contains a very brief blink-and-you'll-miss-it use of strong language when a girl refers to a boy she is mocking as a "p---y," some light crassness related to potty humor, and a plot point involving a teenage boy learning his father has died in a car accident (accident not shown). Otherwise, the film is an uplifting, very thoughtful look at grief, bullying, community building, and what it means to truly be a winner and instills good lessons about integrity, friendship, and ethics.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7-year-old Written byVictorb3 August 11, 2019

Nice movie

I let my boys watch this at age 7/8. I think a little older might be better. My boys know better than to pay attention to the bad language (which there really i... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

Ben (Edward Hall), who has just lost his father in a car accident, discovers the one thing that could bring him joy is entering the local soapbox derby races in New Zealand that he and his dad dreamed of competing in together. But mom Karen (Tandi Wright) is against the idea, so Ben finds a way to compete secretly, even if it means sneaking around to build and test a car with best friend Jeff (Tikirau Hathaway), avoiding teacher Mr. Lumsden (Dai Henwood), not being completely honest, and fending off some school bullies who are dead set on winning at any cost.

Is it any good?

The movie works in tween and teen issues -- bullying, newfound interest in the opposite sex, shifting boundaries with parents, changing friendships -- without feeling like an afterschool special. Instead, the friendships feel natural and the situations are authentic -- barring a bit of reckless driving and a few potties tipping over onto cars for comic effect. It presents situations adolescents can learn a lot from seeing, addressing ethics, teen dating, and trying to obey your parents while still being true to yourself, and it does so without dodging the complexities inherent in them.

Kids who like racing, derby cars, or New Zealand will find a lot to laugh about here, and parents can appreciate the message that there are more important things than winning, even though winning is a lot of fun.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about cheating. What happens when we cheat by taking a shortcut or breaking the rules? Why is it so important to meet our goals as fairly as possible?

  • What are some ways to handle being bullied at school? Do you think Ben handles it well? Why, or why not? What might he have done differently?

  • Ben doesn't appear to be smart in the academic sense, but it turns out he has a lot of knowledge and determination. What are different kinds of smarts that you've noticed? What kinds do you have?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

Themes & Topics

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