A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Little Red Wagon is a 2013 movie inspired by the activism of a young Florida boy named Zach Bonner, who collected supplies for those who lost their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, and then later dedicated his time and efforts to helping homeless children and calling attention to their plight. The biggest concern for parents is the side story in which a mother and her young son lose their home and have no choice but to sleep in their car, dumpster-dive, and shoplift from a grocery store; while intended to provide a concrete example of the tragedy of homelessness, some of the scenes -- including one in which the young boy injures his arm while dumpster-diving -- could be too intense for younger viewers. Also, some of the shouted arguments between the mother and teen daughter could be difficult for some. Finally, during one scene in which Zach and his mother are in the middle of their walk to Tallahassee from Tampa to raise awareness about child homelessness, Zach vomits on the side of the road. Otherwise, this film is an inspirational story of what one person can do to try and make the world a better place, and should lead to thoughtful discussions about activism in our society.
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What's the story?
In the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, a young boy named Zach Bonner is moved to help those who lost their homes from the hurricane in communities south of his Tampa home. With a little red wagon and help from his teen sister Kelley, Zach collects supplies from everyone in his neighborhood. When he and his sister collect much more than they anticipated, Zach begins to reach out to the other neighborhoods around him for help. Zach's efforts begin to garner local media attention, and Zach begins to realize that his efforts are merely the beginning. With help from his mother, he creates a charity dedicated to ease the pain and raise awareness about homeless children. With larger donations and help from bigger corporations, they collect "Zach Bags," book bags for homeless kids that are packed with toys, books, and practical items. As his charity and cause continue to grow, Zach's mother and Kelley are starting to fight more and more, as Kelley wants to have more of a personal life. Meanwhile, Zach conceives of an idea: Walk from Tampa to the state capital of Tallahassee as a way to promote awareness of the difficulties faced by homeless children. It takes some persuading, but Zach's family comes around and does their best to help him in his nearly three-hundred-mile walk, despite the physical difficulties of the journey, as well as inter-family arguments along the way.
Is it any good?
LITTLE RED WAGON is a well-done movie. It was inspired by the true story of Zach Bonner, whose Little Red Wagon charity grew from modest beginnings into a nationally recognized advocate for homeless children. The film manages to show and discuss the growth of young Zach's efforts without being preachy or heavy-handed, and also shows, through a moving side-story involving a mother and her young son who lost everything and are trying to survive by sleeping in their car and homeless shelters, the vast difficulties of homelessness as well as how it really doesn't take much for those in the middle class to lose everything they have.
While the arguments between Zach's mother and his teenage sister Kelley feel like a bit much at times, they do underscore the difficulties faced by many in balancing their desires to improve the world while having a fulfilling social and personal life. Nonetheless, for a "movie with a message," this is among the best to come out in recent years, and should inspire discussion -- and perhaps action -- amongst families about the issues they care about the most.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about activism. How is Zach Bonner's emerging activism conveyed in the movie? What causes are important to you?
Why do you think the side story about the mother and son who lose everything they had was included in the movie? What would have been lost had it not been in the movie?
How do the problems shown between Zach's mother and his teenage sister underscore universal problems of balancing the time to help those in need while taking care of one's own day-to-day financial and personal issues?
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