A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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?
- On DVD or streaming: January 22, 2013
- Cast: Edward Hall, Tikirau Hathaway, Dai Henwood, Tandi Wright
- Director: Tony Simpson
- Studio: Screen Media
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Rated PG for brief language.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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