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Mandie and the Secret Tunnel



Intriguing 1899 family mystery marred by stereotypes.
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 103 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Though well-intentioned, the messages about "Indians" and servants could rub viewers the wrong way.

Positive role models

Mandie is brave and resourceful. Jason, the houseman, is an understanding, protective adult. Amanda's mom, on the other hand, wants to send Mandie away to work.


The main character's father slips and dies while protecting her from a wolf attack. Guns are brandished by white men and arrows are shot. Men die from their wounds.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this story based on a children's book series hinges on a sad moment when the main character's father dies saving her from a wolf attack. Also white men brandish guns and arrows are shot; men die of their wounds. There are some faith-based undercurrents -- characters sing hymns and speak about the "Good Lord" -- and stereotypes of Native Americans and African Americans.

What's the story?

This movie is based on the book of the same name by Lois Leppard. Mandie (Lexi Johnson) lives in a tiny shack in the hills of North Carolina. The year is 1899, and she is very sad whenever her father goes off hunting without her. One day, as she and her father are exploring a creek in the woods, he slips while saving her from a wolf attack. His death is a tragedy that turns Mandie's world upside down. When she discovers that her mother is going to send her to a neighboring town to work for a family, she runs away with her father's friend Ned. Ned takes her to her Uncle's estate, where Mandie is welcomed with open arms. Her Uncle is thought to be lost at sea, but the man who runs the estate, Jason (Dean Jones), encourages her to find her Uncle's will so that she can claim her true inheritance.

Is it any good?


In the spirit of Little House on the Prairie for its setting, and The Secret Garden for its family mystery, this story is a compelling tale about a brave girl who discovers her past. The secret tunnel and the legend that tells of Mandie's heritage are indeed interesting, but families may be put off by some troublesome stereotypes, both of Native Americans who speak in broken English  ("Him sorry, Papoose") and African-American servants who seem a little too pleased with their lot.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Mandie's search for her own family. When she finds out her real heritage, she asks a few questions and drinks her tea. How would you react if you were in her shoes?

  • What were relations like between "Indian" people and white folk back in Mandie's time? How were African-Americans treated? What kind of stereotypes do you find in this movie?

  • Mandie talks about bringing water from the creek to take a bath, and she milks the cow in the morning. What was life really like in 1899? Was there electricity in a home like Mr. Shaw's? What would you do if you had no electricity or running water?

Movie details

DVD/Streaming release date:September 22, 2009
Cast:Dean Jones, Lexi Johnson, William Smith Yelton
Directors:Joy Chapman, Owen Smith
Studio:Lost World Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Book characters, History
Run time:103 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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Parent Written byPurdygood August 20, 2012

Great family movie!

I think Mandie and the Secret Tunnel is a fantastic movie. It is well written and the mystery holds our attention. The time period 1899 is a time of prejudice against Native Americans. This did not change immediately. Many men were uneducated; even caucasion. Poor men learned a trade. They were happy to be employed. Thee only down side here is overacting among some minor characters.
What other families should know
Great messages
Parent Written byElizabeth Darcy March 20, 2012

Absurd characters, full of stereotypes, cliche plot; don't waste your time

Well, if you're looking for a wholesome, unobjectionable family movie, I guess this is one of them, but don't think that that means the movie itself is any good. The plot is overused, the "mean stepmother" stereotype is annoyingly cliche, and the characters Mr. and Mrs. Snow are so ridiculously over-the-top and absurd that you'll find yourself wanting them to die and leave you in peace. Lexi Johnson, who plays Mandie, has very little or no acting talent and is completely unable to fit herself into the time period. Who knew that there were valley girls in the 1800's?! Don't waste your time. I'm warning you. DON'T waste your time.
Teen, 13 years old Written bymisskenna041200 November 17, 2012

One of the best family movies ever made

This is one of the best movies EVER!! It has a good plot and message. The film is a great combo of comedy, life lessons, and it has a bit of a crush between the two main characters. Of course, like in every movie, there are a few people we could do without. All in all, this is a movie to watch more than three times. I know that I have!