A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hachi: A Dog's Tale is the story of great love and respect between a college professor and the puppy he rescues on a snowy night. It's a very gentle film that quickly engages the audience as it introduces a heroic dog, a man with a loving heart, and an idyllic setting. That engagement intensifies emotions, which later carry the story through the years to its bittersweet conclusion. The movie is based the story of a dog who lived in Japan in the 1930s; a statue of the real Hachi remains in the Shibuya train station there. Spoiler alert: A major character dies, which is heartbreaking and likely to upset most kids and parents. Though the film has a "G" rating, it's best for kids who are comfortable with very sad events -- including death -- and the grief that accompanies those events.
What's the story?
In the opening moments of HACHI: A DOG'S TALE, somewhere in a monastery in remote Japan a puppy dog is crated and shipped to the United States. But the Akita puppy's luggage tags are lost, and he ends up wandering the platform of the train station in Bedridge, Rhode Island. This is where music professor Parker Wilson (Richard Gere, in a sincere and nuanced performance) finds Hachi, as the symbol on his collar identifies him. It's the beginning of a lifelong, unwavering bond. As loyal and devoted as Parker is, Hachi's commitment to Parker is as steadfast and beautiful. Parker's wife, Cate (Joan Allen) though reticent at first, begins her own relationship with Hachi, as does the Wilson's grown daughter. For both the women it's comfortable, but Hachi is a one-man dog; Parker is his soul mate. Everyone in Bedridge's small town center watches with amazement as the years pass and every day Hachi arrives in time to meet his master's returning train. Spoiler alert: When tragedy strikes the family, everyone is devastated, and those left behind struggle to endure their great loss. But it's Hachi that teaches the family and everyone in Bedridge the true meaning of allegiance.
Is it any good?
Like a Zen meditation, this movie has a calm pace that soothes viewers. That is, until tragedy occurs and Hachi's true colors shine through. The story of the real Hachi in 1930s Japan has been relocated by director Lasse Hallstrom to the United States in the 21st century. That keeps the story relatable for modern, English-speaking audiences. Long recognized for his ability to bring emotion and conviction to his films, Hallstrom truly captures this dog's-eye view of life. The leisurely pace and the gracefully portrayed passage of time and the dog's maturation combine with the beautiful settings and natural performances to make this a memorable film. However, be prepared to shed a tear and perhaps deal with younger audience members' sensibilities.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Hachi is a hero or not. Can animals be heroes? Parker's grandson thinks of Hachi as a hero. Do you agree?
At one point Parker's daughter opens the gate to let Hachi decide to stay with her family or go off on his own. Given the circumstances, what else might she have done? Which of her alternatives was more loving? Which was more responsible? What would you do?
Do you agree with the MPAA "G" rating for this movie? What might the ratings board have taken into consideration before assigning that rating?
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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.