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Italo

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Italo Movie Poster Image
Italian dog tale has emotional intensity, mild language.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 104 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Remember to focus on the most important aspects of life -- family, community, friendship, education, faith -- before it's too late. Be honest, humble, courageous, and fair, and stay out of trouble. Humans and a dog show loyalty and dependability in their care for others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A dog teaches a town about humanity by serving as a constant, positive, and helpful presence. Parents love their kids and worry about their physical and emotional well-being. A school teacher does the same for her students. Meno and his best friend Chiara watch out for each other. Meno shows how to turn another cheek when kids taunt him. Townswomen gossip, spreading information in both positive and negative ways.

Violence & Scariness

School-age boys tease classmates, dogs, and an elderly man. One tussle between boys results in a spoiled birthday party. Adults chase a stray dog around town, ostensibly to kennel and kill him. A man attacks a woman on the street and the dog saves her by jumping on him and biting his leg. Three kids get lost and have to spend the night alone in a cave, where they run out of food and light. Adults argue with each other and lose their tempers with kids.

Sexy Stuff

One boy calls another the teacher's boyfriend. Two adults seem to fall in love over dinner and come close to kissing afterwards in a car, eventually holding hands. A schoolteacher is about to remove her bikini top while sunbathing on the beach, even though her male students are playing nearby, but she changes her mind under the pressure of stares from other women.

Language

Language in subtitled Italian version: "S--tty." "Idiot." "Hell."

Consumerism

Italian brands.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine with dinner.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Italo (also known as Italo Barocco) is a sweet film with positive messages about friendship, family, and, expectedly in a film starring a dog, loyalty. It also has some characters coping realistically with the loss of a mother and wife, mild school bullying, and language (mostly from adults, like "s--tty," "idiot," and "hell"). A schoolteacher is about to remove her bikini top while sunbathing on the beach, even though her male students are playing nearby, but she changes her mind under the pressure of stares from other women. Some potentially scary scenes involve children getting lost overnight and a woman being attacked in the street, and an emotional climax includes the beloved dog dying. Viewers can learn a little about life for kids in another culture.

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What's the story?

Based on a true story, ITALO is the name given a special stray dog adopted by the son of a town mayor (Marco Bocci), and eventually the entire town community. Despite a ban on stray dogs in this Sicilian town, Italo paws his way into people's hearts through his loyalty and good deeds, including escorting a woman home after she gets off work late at night, leading tourists around town, keeping lonely people company, helping find three lost kids, and regularly attending local weddings, funerals, and masses. His gentlemanly behavior makes him a minor celebrity across Italy. When Italo begins following shy Meno (Vincenzo Lauretta) around, Meno's dad -- the widowed town mayor -- lets the boy keep him, resulting in a relationship that opens Meno up to new people and experiences. Meno deepens his friendship with classmate Chiara (Martina Antoci) and, under the watchful eye of his caring teacher (Elena Radonicich), a possible love interest for the mayor, slowly begins to emerge from his self-imposed isolation. Subplots yield scenarios where Italo can help save the day, including a wacky town councilor (Barbara Tabita) who mounts her own campaign for mayor and whose son is the mostly-harmless school bully, and a seemingly crazy old man who waits every afternoon for a train that never arrives.

Is it any good?

Although this is a children's film with some characters and scenarios purposefully exaggerated for easy comprehension and laughs, Italo doesn't fall prey to glib sentiment. If you peel away the sillier subplots, irregular narration, and overacting among the adult cast, there's a tangible realism in the story of a young boy withdrawing from family and friends as he copes with his mother's death and in the widowed father's parallel struggles. An early scene where Meno silently separates the peas from the pasta on his dinner plate offers a poignant metaphor for his own loneliness. Italo, the wise and benevolent stray dog, provides the catalyst for father and son to connect again and learn to love and laugh anew.

If you don't want to adopt a dog after watching this movie, you may well decide to book a flight to Italy. First-time feature director (and, here, editor) Alessia Scarso and her cinematographer Daria D'Antonio lovingly film the notoriously-charming Sicilian town of Scicli with slow pans of stone buildings and wide shots of its valley set against the warm Mediterranean light. Italo is set in the modern-day but also seems romantically stuck in a simpler time when the traditional pillars of Sicilian life were still the town plaza, the church, the theater, school, and home. Brand Italy includes a broodingly-handsome dad cooking pasta, gorgeously high-heeled women, gossipy grandmas and grandpas, and rowdy schoolchildren biking down cobblestone streets past potted plants and hanging laundry. The setting is as much a character in Italo as the dog.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how pets can have a profound effect on the lives of people, like in Italo. Do you have any personal experience with a life-changing pet? What do pets add to our lives?

  • In what ways does life in this Italian town seem similar to or different from life where you grew up?

  • Does the dog playing Italo "act" in this film? How do you think a director gets a dog to do what he or she wants on a film set?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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