Johnny Tremain

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Johnny Tremain Movie Poster Image
Decent complement to the classic children's novel.
  • NR
  • 1957
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Early Revolutionary War lessons here include an oratory that this is to be the start of a long, hard campaign, not just a party throwing tea into Boston harbor, and that there are serious issues at stake in the uprising. One character is depicted as a strict Puritan type, whose stubborn religious streak leads to Johnny T's fateful wound. Unlike later Hollywood views of Christians, he's not hateful, and no comparison is made between his conservatism and the views of the rebel Boston patriots.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Johnny is a hardworking, proud youth who only wants to make his own way in the world, but he becomes a spirited fighter in the Revolution and understands the issues (at least the Disney interpretation of them). Females take a supportive but mostly background roles. One strongly religious head-of-household is inflexible in his Bible-based beliefs, but not at all unkind. One young black boy who may or may not be a slave represents the minority presence. It's clarified that the crude "Indian" disguises of the Boston Tea Party aren't suppose to degrade natives but just make the rebels harder to ID. Even some English are sympathetic to the colonists.

Violence

War-conditions shooting, with dead/wounded bodies, but no blood or gore. Johnny famously sears his hand in molten silver, but it's not graphically depicted.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention of pubs and some pewter mugs sitting around, probably not filled with milk, but nothing shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there's abundant gunplay (rifle fire) as the Colonial militias face the British Redcoats, with some extras falling dead in both direct confrontation and sniper-style fire. The young hero burns his hand in molten silver, a vivid trauma in the book for generations of young readers, handled more discreetly here (the crippled limb isn't even shown in closeup). An ultra-religious character comes across as stern and domineering, but not cruel. The Esther Forbes novel is still required reading in many schools; kids today might be tempted to watch the movie instead of doing the reading.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byDAD1234557353 March 3, 2016

It sux

It is a horrible movie, nothing like the book.
Adult Written byLowe's man July 29, 2017

interesting and accurate

I saw this in American history in 8th grade. I only remember bits and pieces of it, but it was about what I expected it to be. The battle scenes were accurate... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

JOHNNY TREMAIN derives from a classic children's novel by Esther Forbes, showing the beginnings of the American Revolution from the POV of a teenage lad in Boston. Johnny (Hank Stalmaster) is an apprentice silversmith (Paul Revere is a competitor) circa 1775. Though related to snooty British aristocracy, Johnny has little interest in politics, just becoming a successful tradesman. When Johnny cripples his hand in a metal-pouring accident, however, he instead gets a subsistence job delivering copies of the Boston Observer newspaper -- which fronts for the rebel colonists such as Revere and Samuel Adams. Drawn into the intrigues of the revolution against the British Empire, Johnny and his friends participate in the Boston Tea Party, facilitate Paul Revere's legendary "midnight ride," and help defeat Redcoats in one of the opening skirmishes of the war for American independence.

Is it any good?

Done with Disney's usual high standards and even one musical number, this is a decent, occasionally stirring piece about the birth of USA. Some viewers, youngsters especially, might find the battle scenes a little small scale for Hollywood, but there's probably more accuracy in showing how the American Revolution really started out with guerilla-type skirmishes and brief clashes in the dirt roads around Lexington -- not Jeffersonian X-Wing fighter dives onto King George III's Death Star.

Some speechifying by John Hancock, Sam Adams, and Paul Revere is a little dry, but the drama comes to life with a great monologue given by one of the lesser-known Founding Fathers, a grouchy semi-invalid named John Otis (Jeff York) in which he declares that what's happening in Boston is a serious conflict about freedom, with long-reaching implications, not just playing soldier to banish the pesky Redcoats.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role that firearms played in the revolt against England; certainly guns go a long away in helping the colonists rout the British.

  • Talk about the Boston Tea Party and its aftermath. What was the protest about?

  • Discuss the irony that a few years after the United States won independence from the British a "Whiskey Rebellion" along very similar lines to the Boston Tea Party brewed up among Americans -- directed against the US government and its tariffs on liquor.

Movie details

For kids who love history

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