What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this animated movie isn't intended for young kids. Its violent scenes show monsters and humans engaged in battles with weapons like fire breath, brute strength, and gunfire, and on a few occasions, human casualties are presumed. Expect plenty of iffy language as well, including name-calling (“jerk” and “idiot,” for instance), as well as some substitute cursing like “sphincter” and “son of a buck.” That said, the story has lots of positive content about self-image, friendship, and family bonds for older tweens and teens who can handle the content's more mature nature. Duncan’s struggles to define himself and fit in with his peers transcend his supernatural abilities, making him a relatable hero for teens experiencing similar social uncertainties.
What's the story?
At first glance, Duncan Rosenblatt (voiced by Jesse Head) is an average teen who struggles with relating to the opposite sex, wrestles with self-esteem uncertainties, and tries to balance his parents’ expectations of him with his own. Starting over in a new school complicates things even more, and between his crush on the class cutie and run-ins with the school bully, Duncan is always getting into one scrape or another. Even so, Duncan’s real problem is that his absentee dad is a 120-foot dragon named Belloc (Kevin Michael Richardson) who’s trying to draw him out to train him to succeed him as king of the monsters. When Belloc surfaces, it sets in motion a violent war between the humans and the monsters, and Duncan -- who’s both human and dragon -- is caught in the middle, trying to forge his own destiny.
Is it any good?
It’s not often that an animated movie manages to appeal to an older audience and treat that same audience to some worthwhile content at the same time, but FIREBREATHER pulls it off. Based on a comic book series, this story centers on a teen hero who -- despite his supernatural abilities -- is human to the core and suffers the same uncertainties that his target viewers do. The great news for parents is that this movie succeeds in pushing positive messages about self-image, family relationships, respecting differences, and adhering to a personal value system, all while maintaining tweens’ and teens' interest with fast-paced action and suspense.
Teens should be fine with the content as a whole, but tweens might be iffy on some of the suggestive language (including obvious replacements like “son of a buck" and a poor substitution of “dang” for “damn"). But violence is the main offender, with numerous tense exchanges between monsters and humans and the implied deaths of some humans on different occasions. Even so, the overriding message is that of anti-violence, since Duncan always opts to preserve his enemies’ lives rather than to end them.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the movie’s themes of positive self-image. Can you relate to Duncan’s social and inner struggles? When have you had similar feelings? How is your self-image affected by what others think of you? What do you like most about yourself?
Teens: How do you define a hero? What traits are essential to a hero? Who are some of your role models? Have you ever been disappointed in the behavior of someone you admire? How did their actions change your impression of them? Can heroes be flawed and still worthy of respect?
Duncan was stretched between his parents' opposing expectations, and his vision for his future differed from both of theirs. What do you think your parents expect of you? Do you feel you have freedom to choose your path? What are your hopes and dreams?