A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A friend can see you through the scariest of times, even if they're scared themselves. It sometimes takes courage and trust to do what needs to be done. Other messages about self-discovery, resourcefulness, and believing in yourself.
Positive Role Models
Elmer is a kind child who wants to help his mother and others he encounters. But he listens to and follows the instructions of strangers (or, in this case, strange talking animals) without weighing the danger or learning the full circumstances and consequences of his actions. Boris is enthusiastic and positive, if somewhat timid and unsure of himself until late in the film. Elmer's mother, a widow, runs a successful store until hard times hit their rural community; she moves to the city with Elmer to start over, working hard to provide for both of them. Saiwa comes to understand the mistakes he's made, though they were all in the interests of helping his community.
Elmer and his mother, Dela, may be people of color (their ethnicity isn't specified), and it's implied that Dela (who's voiced by Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani) is an immigrant. Additional diversity within voice cast, though Elmer and Boris are both voiced by White male actors.
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Violence & Scariness
After his mother yells at him, Elmer runs away from home, crying and in distress. He's sent to an island to pull off a dangerous mission, where he faces a series of perilous events, including encounters with dangerous wild animals out to get him, near drownings, and falling from heights. A dragon is kept captive. The island is unstable, threatening its inhabitants' homes and lives. Arguing between friends; other harsh words. Elmer gets in trouble for having a cat in a strict "no pets" apartment.
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"Shut up." While upset, Elmer's mother yells at Elmer. Some threats.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that My Father's Dragon is an animated feature from the filmmakers behind Wolfwalkers and The Secret of Kells. Adapted from a children's book written in 1948, it follows Elmer (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), who -- hoping to find a way to help his widowed mother financially -- goes on a fantasy odyssey. He's lured by a talking cat and then taken to an island where he'll be made to work. The entire journey is presented as a fun adventure, but there's never a warning or takeaway about the dangers of running away from home or talking to strangers. Messages touch on the value of friendship, self-discovery, resourcefulness, and believing in yourself -- although in this case, that results in both Elmer and Boris the dragon (Gaten Matarazzo) diving into serious danger that just happens to work out OK. There are several scenes where Elmer is in peril, including being threatened by wild animals, near drowning, and high falls. Language is limited to "shut up," and there's no substance use or racy content. 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 sometimes a bit confusing, but this colorful dragon fantasy is likely to entertain younger viewers. That said, the film's setup -- a child runs away from a loving parent, trusts a stranger's outlandish promise, and gets aboard transport to be taken to a remote location, where he forms a friendship with a magical dragon -- paints an awfully pretty picture of running away from home.
What's more, the story can be hard to follow and has some uneven messages about solving problems. After being encouragingly labeled "answer boy" when Elmer does use observation and logic to come up with a solution for how to solve the island's problem, it turns out that he's wrong: The solution is magic. And both Elmer and Boris have to blindly choose to do something that looks quite dangerous to achieve a positive outcome. Overall, the film feels less like a continuous journey and more a series of scenes that begin with a shout and are solved by food, candy, or a convenient occurrence. But Elmer and Boris forge a strong friendship and learn to trust both themselves and each other, and the animation is lovely, if perhaps not quite as impressive as previous Cartoon Saloon films like Song of the Sea and Wolfwalkers.
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.