By Tom Cassidy,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Stepsisters learn to unite in animated tale; mild threat.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though the movie is intended to entertain rather than educate, there are a number of positive messages to learn from.
Messages of acceptance and understanding through communication. Overcoming family trauma. Learning to overlook personal differences and focus instead on similarities. That families don't always have to be made up by blood relations.
Positive Role Models
Stepsisters Minna and Jenny fall out and behave negatively to each other. Jenny is image-obsessed and Minna is an introvert. Jenny shares means things about Minna on social media. The pair get over their differences through shared experiences and talking openly about their respective parents leaving. This leads to positive portrayal of a family made up of step-siblings and upbeat and attentive step-parents. Gaff breaks the rules to help Minna when she gets in trouble in the dream world.
Violence & Scariness
A character loses their temper and smashes items in a kitchen, including the table. Some potentially scary dream sequences including some involving spiders. After posting something about their stepsister on social media, a follower replies, "If she were my stepsister I'd kill myself."
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Characters are mean and say hurtful things both online and to each other. A child tells their parents that they hate them.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dreambuilders is an animated movie that deals with new step-families and hurtful memories in an accessible and relatable way for younger viewers. When young girl Minna (voiced by Robyn Dempsey) goes behind the scenes of her dreams, she finds out everyone has a dedicated film-set style crew. Fed up with her stepsister Jenny (Emma Jenkins) -- who has moved into Minna's home -- Minna enters Jenny's dreams and uses them to manipulate her thoughts. The movie deals with parents abandoning their families and the effects it could have on children. When they clash in real-life, Jenny is nasty and shares negative things about Minna on social media. One follower comments, "If she were my stepsister I'd kill myself." Jenny is scared of spiders, so Minna causes lots of small spiders to enter her dream, as well as a giant one. In one scene, Minna loses her temper and has a violent tantrum, breaking things in the kitchen and smashing the table. She tells her dad she hates him. The girls eventually get over their differences and bond over the shared experience of a parent leaving. Both present parents in the movie are caring and attentive. The movie's message is clear, that acceptance helps to move on from trauma.
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What's the Story?
In DREAMBUILDERS, young girl Minna (voiced by Robyn Dempsey) discovers she can go behind the scenes of people's dreams, altering them in the process. Minna decides to use her newly discovered gift to manipulate the dreams of her new -- and annoying -- stepsister, Jenny (Emma Jenkins).
Is It Any Good?
This is a steady, thoughtful children's movie that keeps its focus tight and stakes low in order to get across its message of acceptance. With just a handful of human characters and a core group of fantastical "dreambuilders," co-directors Kim Hagen Jensen and Tonni Zinck keep us firmly in the shoes of young Minna, voiced with authenticity by Dempsey. Pixar's Inside Out opened the door for portraying internal fantasy worlds and Dreambuilders carries the torch, with Minna's dreams revealing her subconscious fear of losing her father when her step-family moves into the family home she shares with her dad and hamster.
There are some genuine fun moments -- particularly in the whimsical dream world -- but Dreambuilders is more a family drama than wacky animation. As such, there's a slight melancholic air that runs throughout, which is notable in its absence when the characters have learned their lessons. The stepsister rivalry is excellently played out, too, with Jenkins' Jenny perfectly embodying the secretly hurt, social-media-obsessed young teen in competition with Minna. Both the real world and dream world are beautifully animated too. Smart, tight and thoughtful, this is an effective, but not preachy, look at the effects of trauma and how to overcome it.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the portrayal of family in Dreambuilders. How does Minna and Jenny's family compare to yours and other families you know? How does this portrayal compare to other families seen in movies? Would you like to see more portrayals of "step-families" on TV and in movies?
Jenny shares photographs of Minna on social media for others to judge? How did this make Minna feel? What are the dangers of sharing things on social media?
What are some of the issues Minna and Jenny face as stepsisters, and how do they overcome them? Why did talking about their feelings and experiences together help Minna and Jenny feel happier? How can I use media to help my kid's communication skills?
- On DVD or streaming: July 3, 2020
- Cast: Robyn Dempsey, Emma Jenkins, Luke Griffin
- Directors: Kim Hagen Jensen, Tonni Zinck
- Studio: SF Film
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters
- Character Strengths: Communication, Empathy
- Run time: 81 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: June 2, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
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