A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jock the Hero Dog may look like a family friendly comedy for all ages, but its use of rough-edged characters with harsh dispositions and an affection for casual violence are too mature for a very young audience. The movie includes a sad, drawn-out scene where a young dog's mother is killed and mourned, plus several scenes where the main characters are in serious danger. Themes such as perseverance and doing the right thing will ring true for kids mature enough for the rougher stuff.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A small dog named Jock (voiced by pop star Bryan Adams) with outsize determination embarks on an animated adventure across the South African bush while his owner Fitz (Theo Landey) searches for gold. Along the way, Jock befriends native animals, dodges death, learns about friendship and loss, and discovers the importance of perseverance and facing life with courage. While doing so, he must navigate the complexities of the human characters' greed and ambition as they search for fortunes. The movie is narrated by Donald Sutherland and features an all-star cast that includes Helen Hunt (as mom Jess) and Ted Danson (Pezulu).
Is it any good?
Jock the Hero Dog is an entertaining, competently animated CGI tale about a runty dog's triumph over adversity. However, its dark themes, ruffian characters, and gritty plot points make for an unexpectedly heavy viewing experience given that the film is clearly marketed as family entertainment. Concepts such as death, aggression, and senseless brutality, set against a bleak landscape, are more mature than expected, and make for an overall uneven tone.
The film is based on the true South African story of Jock of the Bushveld, a book originally released in 1907, twice made into movies that also struggled to find an audience due to its mournful overtones. In spite of these tonal missteps, there's plenty to enjoy for kids in this high-stakes, engaging adventure about a curious, fun-seeking dog on his own out in the world. Parents will appreciate the all-star cast, but may find the oft-repeated cliches about following your heart and doing the right thing a tad heavy-handed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the harshness of the South African landscape the film depicts. What is it about the film's setting and the way of life it depicts that might explain why these characters are so desperate for money or so quick to hurt each other? Does their behavior make sense given the harsh conditions in which they live?
What lessons does Jock the dog learn about survival, friendship, and family over the course of his adventure?
How does Jock cope with the loss of his mother, and his guilt over his role in her death? What would you tell Jock about his feeling that his mother's death was his fault?
How is this movie different than other animated animal movies that you've seen?
- On DVD or streaming: September 25, 2012
- Cast: Donald Sutherland, Helen Hunt
- Director: Duncan MacNeillie
- Studio: ARC Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some menace and peril
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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