Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart Movie Poster Image
Imaginative steampunk musical is too dark for little kids.
  • PG
  • 2014
  • 89 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 30 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Melies encourages Jack not to spend his life worrying about getting hurt, because a certain amount of recklessness is needed for a joyous life. Jack decides that love is worth the risk of his heart giving out. The idea that your differences are your strengths is an excellent reminder to value what makes us each unique.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jack is kind and patient and loves Acacia with a singular devotion. Madeleine is a faithful mother to Jack who just wants to keep him safe and healthy. Melies helps Jack and takes him under his wing.


Jack nearly dies at birth because his heart freezes. His birth mother abandons him as a newborn. Joe regularly bullies Jack (and everyone else) at school, crushing anyone who threatens his authority. Joe pushes and prods and slaps Jack, crushes eggs on him, winds him up, calls him "Big Ben," plays with his heart, and threatens to pulverize it. One day as Joe is trying to choke Jack, Jack's cuckoo escapes and stabs Joe's eye out. On a train, Jack encounters Jack the Ripper, who sings a really scary song about slicing and dicing blondes and brunettes and all "sublime women." Jack the Ripper throws a knife at Jack.


A couple of intense kisses and romantic songs, as well as a few very suggestive jokes that will go over kids' head -- like when a woman says her friend died saying "giddy giddy giddy up, ride 'em cowboy," and her friend says "libido killed the cowboy."


Insult language like "runt" and "Big Ben."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A couple of adults smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart is a dark, steampunk-style animated musical that's best for tweens and up, like Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Originally a French production that's been dubbed in English, the imaginative tale has some mature elements, particularly the dark and violent tone, schoolyard bullying that ends in an eye being stabbed, and the main character's encounter with Jack the Ripper (with an ensuing frightening song about slicing up beautiful women). A love story is central to the movie, and the teen romance gets pretty intense, leading to songs about hearts ablaze and a climactic kissing scene. And adults smoke cigarettes and tell suggestive jokes that will go over kids' head. Bottom line? This is best for older kids who are ready for more sophisticated animated movies.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAnahita N. October 18, 2016


Ok I'm mature enough to understand this movie even though I'm 11, but, theres a lot of hidden sex scenes. Like in one of the songs, Jack sings about h... Continue reading
Parent of a 6, 8, and 10-year-old Written byHollyBug13 August 20, 2016

Not child appropriate!!!!

The rating should not be PG! It needs to be PG-13! To many questionable senarios for young children and to violent. My children were asking questions that didn... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 15, 2021

for parent's to know

I think it has great messages and great role models because he is not giving up.
and I love it the movie should be older tweens and teanagers. and of you like... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byskz0325 November 21, 2020

One of my favorite movies!!

Alright just letting everyone know, this is my favorite movie so this is a bit biased, but in all honesty, the movie isn't as bad as everyone says! Everyon... Continue reading

What's the story?

On the "coldest day on earth" in 18th-century Edinburgh, a young woman gives birth to a boy whose heart freezes. Luckily, the knowledgeable midwife, Madeleine (voiced by Barbara Scaff), knows magic and sets the baby up with the titular cuckoo-clock heart. After the newborn's mother leaves him in Madeleine's care, JACK AND THE CUCKOO-CLOCK HEART grows up with three big rules: Don't touch the hands of his clock heart, don't lose his temper, and don't fall in love. Everything changes on his eleventh birthday, when Jack (Orlando Seale) sees a beautiful young flamenco singer at the market and is smitten with her. Convinced he'll find her at the local school, Jack begs Madeleine to let him go, too. By the time he attends school, the singer, Miss Acacia (Samantha Barks) is gone -- but Joe, the school bully who also fancied her, is there to make Jack's life as difficult as possible ... for three straight years. When a catastrophe sends Jack running away at age 14, he encounters filmmaker/inventor Georges Melies and ends up in Andalusia, Spain, where he again finds Acacia and must decide whether he should risk his heart and life for romance.

Is it any good?

Enjoyment of this unique period love story will depend on how you feel about animated fare that's more Coraline and Corpse Bride than Pixar and pixie dust. And, yes, if you're a fan of musicals, that will help, too. It's not a perfect film; schoolyard bully Joe is a bit overdone, and there's not enough relationship building between Madeleine and her close friends, but you've got to admire the ambition of such a far-reaching love story that crams in historical figures (Jack the Ripper, Georges Melies), humor, and a lot of romance.

This movie is based on author/composer Mathias Malzieu's (frontman of the French rock band Dionysos) 2007 book The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, which later became a concept album for Dionysos before being adapted into this translated French musical. The animation, like the story, is imaginative -- if really dark at times -- and the characters are reminiscent of Tim Burton's and Henry Selick's creations. The darkness is cut by the colorful character of Miss Acacia, Jack's object of affection in flamenco red. Barks, who played Eponine in Les Miserables, does a beautiful job with Acacia's songs, which are mostly in Spanish (Jack crosses Europe to find her). Jack himself is alternately melancholy and hopeful, a young Hamlet of indecision and longing obsessed with his future and his one true love.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart's themes: that what makes us different is what makes us unique -- and what makes us fragile is what can make us stronger. Do you agree with those ideas? How do they apply in real life?

  • Do you think that animated movies should always be appropriate for the youngest viewers, or do you appreciate animated movies that are targeted for slightly older audiences?

  • This is a French production that was dubbed in English. Can you tell that it's not a "Hollywood" animated movie? What elements make it obvious that it's a foreign film?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animation

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate