A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that in the midst of the central heart-warming tale about a boy, adorable dogs, and medical "miracles," sub-plots of Miracle Dogs include grown-up issues such as: cancer, grief, euthanasia, joblessness, and the amputation of a dog's leg. And, until the main story is resolved, there is a constant threat of the animals being transferred to a place where they may be put to sleep. Though everything is predictably resolved and upbeat, suspenseful and sad events along the way are: a dog hit by a car then having his front leg amputated, a young tennis player who may be severely injured, a woman who refuses cancer treatment, and a man who describes his guilt over the death of his son.
What's the story?
When 10-year-old Charlie Logan (Josh Hutcherson in his first film role) moves to Cleveland with his family, he's shy, scared, and sad. He's further upset when his doctor dad (Ted Shackleford) accidentally hits a stray dog on the road. But "Annie" is as brave as they come -- though her injuries are easily repaired, the vet discovers that she has cancer and the dog's front leg must be removed to save her life. Unhappily, no pets are allowed in the Logans' new rental home, so after the successful surgery Annie is in danger of being warehoused with other strays. Charlie takes matters into his own hands and what follows is a series of adventures: a daring rescue, the discovery of Annie's four adorable puppies, dogs running amuck in the famed Cleveland Clinic, and a few wondrous "miracles." Inspired by a children's book: Annie Loses Her Leg but Finds Her Way, by Sandra Philipson.
Is it any good?
It's all soothingly predictable; everything's easily resolved and characters change for the better in the blink of an eye. But child actor Josh Hutcherson and the MIRACLE DOGS are marvels of cute, endearing innocence and good deeds. It's a fairy tale story in which the dogs appear to have magical healing powers, but other than a cursory explanation about the placebo effect of an animal's presence, there's no explanation for the miracles that happen.
Other troubled characters in a bevy of sub-stories have very grown-up issues at their core -- an odd combination of bitter and sweet. Still, if mild bouts of cancer, grief, guilt, and amputation aren't off-putting, the boy and his dogs are irresistible.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how caring for a pet helps us become more responsible. What does it feel like having something or someone dependent upon you? What do you get in return for your efforts?
Life's changes can be scary and yet beneficial at the same time. What changes have you and/or your family experienced (i.e., moving, new job, a new baby)? What have you learned from those changes?
Charlie seemed to be on his own a lot in this story, day and night. How realistic is that where you live? Do you think Charlie's parents should have been paying more attention?
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