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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Iron Will is a snowy coming-of-age film that shows the teen hero confronting dangerous obstacles on the way to accomplishing his dream. While the heartwarming theme is excellent, sensitive children should be shielded from this film. In it, Will's father dies and Will is taunted by adults. There's also a graphic dog fight scene. Some mild profanity ("hell," "damn") and smoking and drinking. Kids who are mature enough to handle the content will be rewarded with an excellent film. Parents may want to discuss the film's disturbing elements with younger kids after viewing. It may be hard to get adolescents to watch, but teens who give this story a try will thrill to the youthful main character's courage.
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What's the story?
IRON WILL follows the adventures of 17-year-old Will Stoneman (Mackenzie Astin), who, after his father dies, competes in a grueling dog sled race to save the family farm. Set in snowy, beautifully photographed wilderness, Iron Will is an action-packed adventure with heart and soul. Young Will Stoneman's determination to follow his dream, and his unwillingness to give up in the face of tremendous danger, is inspirational. In addition, his commitment to honoring his father and preserving his family's way of life is an admirable contrast to much of what's commonly offered pre-teen and teen audiences.
Is it any good?
The performances in this film are uniformly excellent. Oscar winner Kevin Spacey is a snappy, sarcastic presence as the veteran reporter who sees Will as his ticket to fame and fortune. Mackenzie Astin has a sweet but never sappy earnestness as Will. Supporting characters, from the grizzled competitors to the wealthy financiers (including David Ogden Stiers), who sponsor the race, fill out the cast nicely. The sled dogs are beautiful, and the stunts are wildly exciting and well staged.
Like many Disney releases, Iron Will contains moments that may disturb sensitive viewers. Will's father's death, and the idea that an adult would taunt and threaten a kid, are difficult concepts. Parents are urged to view this film along with their kids. One 8-year-old boy felt the film was "sad, but really exciting," and loved the animals. Although there are scary moments and the road is a little rough, Will's journey is well worth taking.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Will's courage in Iron Will and how each family member has used courage in his or her own life.
What is your favorite dog movie? How does this one compare?
Why do you think there are so many movies featuring heroic dogs?
- In theaters: January 14, 1994
- On DVD or streaming: April 23, 2003
- Cast: August Schellenberg, Kevin Spacey, Mackenzie Astin
- Director: Charles Haid
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Adventures
- Character strengths: Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements
- Last updated: May 6, 2021
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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.
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