A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this family film shows how a teenage girl from the city learns to appreciate life on a farm. More importantly, she goes from being bitter and resentful about being forced to live with her grandfather to understanding his life and his troubles, and figuring out a way to help him. There's a sweet and fairly innocent romance with a boy who lives nearby, including some flirting and hugging and one gentle kiss.
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What's the story?
When Maddie's mom is deployed overseas with the Army, she (Dora Madison Burge) is shipped off to her grandpa's (Lance Henriksen) ranch. It's so far out in the sticks that she can't even use her mobile phone to text her city friends, much to her dismay. But things start to look up when she meets the hunky Eli (Cody Linley) who lives nearby and is training his dog for the big competition. Soon, Maddie is trying to train her dog Scout for the event, and the stakes get even higher when she realizes Grandpa's having money problems and the cash prize will help him keep the bankers away from the ranch.
Is it any good?
MY DOG THE CHAMPION won't win accolades for originality. The basic fish-out-of-water plot has been used time and time again, and watching a city girl initially alienate people in the country, and then learn to appreciate the lifestyle, is neither new nor surprising. Expect perhaps a misfire of a scene where a character is desperately trying to find a mobile-phone signal, a sequence so long you wish she'd find it already. As soon as we learn that Grandpa's in debt, we can tell that Maddie's going to win the big competition and help save the farm. How lucky that she turns out to be a natural when it comes to training dogs.
The dog scenes are fun to watch, and Scout, the canine star is definitely adorable. The rest of the movie isn't very special, however, though it certainly might appeal to young viewers looking for a wholesome story about helping family and getting in touch with one's true self. And that's a message everyone can appreciate.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the lessons Maddie learned. How does she learn to enjoy life in the country? What are her favorite parts of living on a ranch?
Why is Maddie so attached to her mobile phone? How does her attitude toward rural life shift once she accepts that she won't be able to send and receive text messages?
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