A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Provides information about the value of dogs (and other pets) in the healing process (though the results of the dogs' participation is exaggerated for this story). Introduces some medical terms and the concept of "euthanasia."
Validates the efforts of one person (in this case, a child) taking it upon him to defy authority in order to right a wrong. Promotes open-mindedness, charity, risk-taking, and resourcefulness.
Positive Role Models
Charlie is easy for kids to identify with. Though he feels forced to be dishonest and sneaky, it's for an admirable cause. He consistently makes ethical choices. Charlie's persistent when it comes to rescuing animals that are in danger and is a brave risk-taker, intelligent and very compassionate. Though Charlie is unsupervised most of the time, his parents are otherwise caring, sensitive, and unselfish. Female characters are strong and respected. There's limited ethnic diversity among the players.
Violence & Scariness
A dog is injured in an auto accident and is diagnosed with cancer. A girl is rushed into a hospital emergency room; it appears momentarily that she may be severely injured or near death. A mild fright occurs when a "scary" man finds Charlie in the hospital basement; he proves to be unthreatening and helpful.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some chaste kisses between a husband and wife. Mildly flirtatious behavior when a doctor and patient fall in love.
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Products & Purchases
Much of the action takes place in the clearly identified Cleveland Clinic, a prestigious Ohio medical facility. Other visuals: Michelin tires, Metro Life Flight, and Nestle Ice Cream.
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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.