Want personalized picks that fit your family?
Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Marshall's Miracle is a family film based on the children's book Marshall the Miracle Dog, which is based on a true story. The film takes on two somewhat dark themes -- bullying and animal hoarding -- and contains some content that may be too intense for young tweens. Animals are shown in crowded, inhumane conditions, and one dog is severely injured and in poor health. A 12-year-old boy is bullied almost constantly throughout the film, with other kids calling him names, taking his things, and threatening physical violence. Themes of parental abandonment also are explored, but parents will appreciate the strong antibullying message and the call to "be strong, be courageous, and be kind."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Finn (Lucas McHugh Carroll) is having trouble adjusting to his new town, especially since his mom (Shannon Elizabeth) works a lot at the local diner. And when his plans to try out for the school baseball team are thwarted by a group of bullies led by the macho Luke (Zach Louis), Finn is about ready to give up. Then he discovers Marshall, a sweet dog who's being kept in deplorable conditions by Luke's mom (Lauren Holly). Determined to rescue the pup, Finn breaks him out, only to discover that if he doesn't get the urgent medical care he needs, Marshall could die. As Finn races against the clock, Luke and his mom try to get Marshall back, while Finn's mom and the cute local vet, Dr. Henry (Matthew Settle), try to help Marshall first.
Is it any good?
Although it has good intentions and some recognizable stars (such as Lauren Holly and Shannon Elizabeth), this depressing dog tale takes on issues that seem too adult for its target audience. It's enough that the film examines bullying and tries to give kids who are bullied clues on how to handle the situation. The animal-hoarding theme feels tacked on, and it's not an issue that's particularly relevant to tweens. It's also incredibly depressing, and the film can't lighten the mood, even as it encourages viewers to not give up "five minutes before the miracle."
Parents of tweens should be prepared to discuss big themes such as animal abuse, animal hoarding, and mental illness. And kids who are looking for an upbeat animal adventure should probably skip this one.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about bullying. Why do you think some kids become bullies? How can they learn to stop bullying?
Luke's mom thinks she's helping dogs by taking them into her home, even if she has too many to properly take care of them. What would be a better way for her to help animals? How can you help animals in need?
Do you think Finn did the right thing by stealing Marshall? Or was there a better way he could have gotten help for the dog?
Why are dog movies so popular? Which one is your favorite, and why?
For kids who love dogs
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
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.