I Heart Shakey

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
I Heart Shakey Movie Poster Image
Father-daughter dog tale swings from sweet to over the top.
  • PG
  • 2012
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Not an educational movie, but kids will learn a bit about Chicago and its landmarks, as well as the fact that pets aren't allowed in certain buildings.

Positive Messages

I Heart Shakey focuses on the love between a father and daughter and how their pet dog is an indispensable part of their family. Chandler learns that she can make a difference by helping to change the building manager's mind about pets. The story demonstrates that some rules are unjust and can be challenged. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

J.T. is a loving, attentive father who always has his daughter's best interests at heart. Chandler, after making a new friend, figures out a way to rally support for changing the apartment building's unfair "no dogs" rule. She learns not to sit around and pout but to try to make a difference.

Violence & Scariness

Slapstick moments -- a pie in the face, a school food fight, trips and falls -- are fairly common, as is the general mayhem caused by a dog. Chandler deals with bullies at school. A man who fancies himself a soldier has an arsenal of weapons and discusses his love of them. Very young kids might be sad when Chandler's dead mother is brought up and whenever Chandler gets upset about the fact that Shakey isn't allowed in the building.

Sexy Stuff

Mild insults like "idiot," "loser," "stupid," "moron," and "imbecile," as well as several jibes at Shakey ("mongrel," "mutt," etc.).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine and champagne are served at a couple of dinner parties for adults. A man is shown with a cigar. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Heart Shakey is an independent 3-D family comedy aimed at elementary-aged kids. Although the movie has a simplistic plot, the story does offer some positive lessons about just vs. unjust rules, the importance of family pets, and the necessity of standing up for your rights (in this case, the right to own a dog in an apartment building). There's some mild language (mostly insults like "moron" and "imbecile"), as well as a few scenes of slapstick violence and general dog-induced havoc, and a little bit of drinking by adults (one character also has a cigar). Fathers will appreciate how the comedy centers on the bond between a dad and his daughter.

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What's the story?

Widower J.T. O'Neil (Steve Lemme) and his daughter, Chandler (Rylie Behr), move from Toledo, Ohio, to Chicago so he can pursue his dream of becoming a master chef. The O'Neils, who are accompanied by their faithful dog, Shakey, arrive at their big city high-rise only to discover that dogs are strictly forbidden on the premises. Forced to kennel Shakey or lose their deposit, J.T. and Chandler are depressed -- until their dog manages to find himself back at the apartment building. After trying to hide Shakey from the nosy building super and the dog-hating manager, Chandler realizes that she should try to change the unfair rules, not just continue to break them.

Is it any good?

I HEART SHAKEY's premise, albeit predictable, is promising, and the two primary actors (Broken Lizard alum Lemme and newcomer Behr) are genuinely likable. A father and daughter teaming up to save their beloved dog? It's the stuff family movies are made of, and Lemme and Behr are actually good enough actors to make their pitiful situation believable. Unfortunately, the movie has far too many manic, exaggerated characters to be enjoyable when Lemme and Behr have to share the screen with them.

The story takes a considerable turn for the worse once the ridiculously snooty and scowling manager, Ms. Willinger (Janet Ulrich Brooks), makes her first appearance. The role should have been played with the devilish subtlety that Imelda Staunton brought to her role as Professor Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter, but instead she's depicted as an even more deranged Cruella De Vil (obviously) who bulges her eyes like the Bride of Frankenstein. And she's not even the worst offender -- practically every other adult in the film is a stereotype, particularly the laughably flamboyant Mattias (Philippe Brenninkmeyer), who owns the restaurant where J.T. works, and the militaristic Stubbs (Steve Guttenberg). If you can overlook the overacting and focus on the father-daughter-dog triangle, it's possible to like Shakey -- but heart it? Probably not.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of dog-centered family films. Do you prefer animal movies in which the animals talk or more realistic depictions? What are your favorite dog movies?

  • How does I Heart Shakey portray the difficulties of moving to a new place? Chandler has to deal with bullies at her new school, but she also makes a new and important friend. Is her school life believable to those who've moved or transferred?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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