A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Emma's Chance is a wholesome story about facing up to consequences, fulfilling responsibilities, and finding purpose in the process. Principal events were filmed on the actual Red Bucket Equine Rescue facility in California, the nonprofit horse ranch portrayed in the story. So while the story of Emma and "Chance," a gallant stallion, is fictional, the horses photographed are the real residents of Red Bucket, and the character of Susan Peirce, played by an actress, is the real-life founder of the operation, fondly known as "the land the horses own." High school pranks, along with some of the "mean girl" perpetrators of those pranks, set the story in motion. The heroine, an all-around good kid, gets momentarily led astray. Other than that, there's nothing to worry about for tweens and teens. There may be no surprises in what is essentially a conventional film, but it's family-friendly, with lots of horses filmed in beautiful surroundings.
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What's the story?
Though she knows it's wrong, Emma Baily (Greer Grammer) goes along with her high school crowd in an iffy, illegal prank in EMMA'S CHANCE. When only Emma is caught, community service is her punishment; she'll spend three days a week working at a ranch that rescues and trains abused and neglected horses. Emma is contrite but still annoyed when she heads to the Red Bucket Equine Rescue. She knows absolutely nothing about horses and has never even ridden. It isn't long, however, before Emma finds herself drawn to Chance, a beautiful, spirited horse still recovering from ill treatment. And, when Emma learns that Susan Peirce, the owner of Red Bucket, is in financial trouble, she can't help but take an even more personal interest. Bonding with Kevin (Joey Lawrence) and Lexi (Christina Robinson), two of the ranch's stalwart staff members, Emma takes it upon herself to help both Chance and Susan and, in the process, become the kind of person she's always wanted to be.
Is it any good?
A teenage girl trying to find her way, a worthy cause, and beautiful horses mostly make up for what is at heart a routine story with stock characters and fully expected outcomes. Performances are fine; the production is competent all around, and knowing that the Red Bucket Equine Rescue is, in fact, a real place and the horses photographed are the ones who live there is an added bonus. Despite its lack of nuance and originality, it's a heartfelt film with some solid messages and lovely visuals -- fine for tweens and teens, the target audience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the presence of "mean girls" and/or bullies in many high school movies. How did Emma play an important part in the turnaround of Catherine "Cat" and her buddies? Do you think mean girls are becoming an overused stereotype, or is it always a relevant factor in movies about teens?
Have you noticed how satisfying it is to help others? Emma had a life-changing experience spending time at Red Bucket Equine Rescue. Have you thought about doing community service? What opportunities are there in your community to make a difference?
What does it mean when a story is predictable? Did you have any doubts about the outcome of this movie? Were you surprised by Cat's change of heart? Or by the results of Emma's participation in the Summer Grand Championships? Was your journey as an audience member worth taking even though you might have known the ending of the story right from the start or soon afterward? Why?
- On DVD or streaming: July 5, 2016
- Cast: Greer Grammer, Joey Lawrence, Missi Pyle
- Director: Anna Elizabeth James
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Horses and Farm Animals
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild thematic elements
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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.