Movie review by Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Howard Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 13+

Poignant docu about Disney lyricist has mature themes.

NR 2020 95 minutes

Parents say

age 8+

Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 7+

Based on 1 review

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Community Reviews

age 8+

Great for adults, fine (just a little boring) for kids.

This documentary is the story of an inspiring and talented lyricist and composer, who is responsible for not only the musical version of Little Shop of Horrors but also the 90s movies that launched the Disney animation renaissance. The documentary is child appropriate, although adults will find it more interesting. In this documentary we see Howard's early years in theater and interest in directing, and then his efforts to create successful stage musicals. This is a difficult business but he perseveres in spite of some failures. He eventually works for Disney, articulates the "I Wish" song that had been a staple of animated Disney features all along, and stays true to his creative vision. And he was also gay. In the documentary this is addressed directly, through verbal references and photos of Howard with his college boyfriend and with his partner later. The most gratuitous photos are of two men leaning into each other. There no other physical contact is mentioned, or depicted in photos. These are positive relationships. And yes, Howard died of AIDS. The disease is mentioned as a "gay cancer" in the terminology of the time, and we see protest signs held by some very hateful people. Howard at times looks a bit run down, and there are verbal descriptions of white patches on his throat, but there is certainly nothing scary or graphic. Unless your child was distressed by the polio cases in "An American Girl Story - Maryellen 1955: Extraordinary Christmas," there is no reason why they can't watch this. I watched this documentary with my eight year old daughter. She was delighted by the footage of behind the scenes tapings of Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, especially when she saw Angela Lansbury and recognized her from Murder She Wrote. She liked seeing how hand-drawn animation was done, and the scenes from Little Shop of Horrors film. She's had homosexual people in her life since forever, but this film provided an opportunity to discuss the AIDS crisis in a safe way, as well as the distressing way that other people reacted to it. Some of the movie moved a little slower than she would like, but it certainly wasn't inappropriate in any way. Yes, he does die at the end, but "Anne Frank Remembered" is rated as 9+ and this is much less intense.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models

Movie Details

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