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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Henry & Me is an earnest, message-driven animated film in which a 10-year-old boy is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease (though never officially identified, it's clearly cancer) and must learn to meet the challenges he faces. Losing his energy, his hair, and his positive outlook, Jack prepares for a serious operation with his spirit sagging and fear overwhelming him. What follows is Jack's dream-like journey through the annals of the New York Yankees, during which the boy meets baseball stars of the past and present, each of whom offers solace and strong lessons in what it means to face adversity. Loaded with celebrity voices, plus a wonderful assortment of Yankee players playing themselves and Cyndi Lauper's music, it's a one-of-a-kind film -- part inspirational story, part unconditionally positive publicity for the Yankee organization. A portion of the proceeds will go to a variety of viable charities. The fictional story has an upbeat ending, but given its serious nature it may prompt discussions of kids dealing with traumatic illness and possible death.
What's the story?
Ten-year-old Jack has a loving family, a bright future, and a passionate love for the New York Yankees baseball team in HENRY & ME. When he's unexpectedly diagnosed with a very serious illness, his entire world is turned upside down. Jack is sad, losing hope, and facing a grim present and a bleak future, and even his caring parents and upbeat medical team can't lift his spirits. Still, Jack knows that having a strong mental attitude will help him recover. Prepping for a critical surgery, he finds himself in a mystical twilit space where he meets a very wise and baseball-savvy stranger, "Henry" (voiced by a comforting, soft-spoken Richard Gere). Henry takes Jack (a compelling voice-over performance by Austin Williams) on a magical journey, during which the boy meets the legends of Yankee baseball history, both living and deceased. Jack becomes well-acquainted with the challenges these greats have endured; he becomes intimately acquainted with their courage, their optimism, and their toughness. It's a crucial journey, one in which this desperately ill child learns how to cope with adversity, rise above it, and prevail.
Is it any good?
This film is best for baseball lovers, especially Yankee fans, who don't mind a little bit of seriousness with their hero worship. Traditional animation, with cleanly drawn images and inventive characterizations, works with an array of celebrity voice talents to bring this movie to life. Richard Gere and Cyndi Lauper bring just the right notes to their roles as little Jack's cheerleaders. Henry & Me is a short film that relentlessly hypes the New York Yankees but will ultimately inspire and have meaning for older kids (not only sports fans), especially when they can watch with grown-ups who have their own memories of these legends to draw upon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss the many messages in Henry & Me that equate baseball with life. Besides teamwork, sharing both victory and defeat, and making the most of our talent and skills, what else can a player learn about life from participating in baseball and sports in general?
Look up Henry Louis Gehrig, a legendary sports figure. What made Lou Gehrig so special? How has he served as an example of strength and gratitude for young people? Why do you think the filmmakers chose Lou Gehrig as Jack's mentor?
Do you have a personal hero in your life? What makes that person special? How is he or she an example for you?
- In theaters: August 18, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: September 9, 2014
- Cast: Richard Gere, Cyndi Lauper, Austin Williams
- Director: Barrett Esposito
- Studio: Henry & Me Productions
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 68 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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