A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that My Magic Dog (originally released as the TV movie My Ghost Dog) deals with the death of a beloved pet dog, the past death of Toby's mother, and a custody battle. The death of the dog isn't graphic or gory, but Toby is with the dog Lucky when he dies, and the scene may upset sensitive kids. There are some menacing bullies and a cartoony villain, who all get their comeuppance in the end. All the other characters are positive role models. Faith is lightly touched on (Lucky comes back as an angel-like ghost in answer to Toby's prayer), but the biggest message is that loved ones who are gone will always be with us, although it doesn't explain how or why. There is some infrequent, mild name-calling such as "dolt." Toby tells his aunt, "You suck."
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What's the story?
Mean Aunt Violet wants to take 12-year-old Toby (Bryan Mendez) away from his loving stepfather, Chet (Leo Milbrook). Toby will one day inherit a fortune, and if Violet controls Toby, she'll be able to enjoy the money for herself. She hires a couple of neighborhood bullies to sneak into Toby and Chet's house to steal the will that proves Toby's mother wanted Chet to have custody of Toby. While chasing the robbers away, Toby's pet dog Lucky is hit by a car and dies. But in answer to Toby's prayers, Lucky is sent back in ghostly form to help Toby find the culprits and prove to the courts that he belongs with Chet. But can MY MAGIC DOG find the proof against Aunt Violet before she whisks Toby away?
Is it any good?
This drama, while cliched, is strong on positive role models and refreshingly free of potty humor. Unfortunately, instead of building characters and a story to care about, the plot mostly lurches from one trope to another -- and then another. Younger kids may find some humor in the cartoony slapstick, but most gags fall flat, and sensitive younger viewers may be too upset by the death of Lucky to find comfort in his help from the afterlife. The acting falls as flat as the gags, except for poor Russ Tamblyn, who's woefully miscast and unable to lift those around him enough to make the 90 minutes worthwhile.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about when a loved one dies. How does Toby cope with his losses? Have you lost a family member or pet? How did you handle it?
Why are movies with dogs so popular? What other movies with dogs have you seen? How does this one compare?
How does Toby deal with the mean bullies at the park? Does he handle them well? What would you do if you were Toby?
- In theaters: December 31, 1997
- On DVD or streaming: October 21, 2003
- Cast: Leo Milbrook, Bryan Mendez, Jessica Knoblauch
- Director: John Putch
- Studios: DonKey Productions, Royal Oaks Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Great Boy Role Models
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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