My Magic Dog

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
My Magic Dog Movie Poster Image
Low-budget dog-from-heaven story is emotionally intense.
  • G
  • 1997
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Meant to entertain, but provides some context for concepts such as custody and wills.

Positive Messages

Even if you can't see someone who's gone (because they passed away), they'll always be with you. Sometimes you're separated from those you love, and that's just how it has to be. A fat lady is unappealing and eats sloppily; how unappealing she is and how much she eats are briefly joked about. Brief, nondenominational faith message when Toby's bedtime prayer is answered and his dog reappears from the sky with a halo over his head.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Toby, 12, is a good model of helpfulness to his stepfather, figuring things out on his own, and taking action when needed. He handles the relatively mild neighborhood bullies well. Stepfather Chet is an ideal dad, caring, supportive, and loving. Neighbors Phoebe and Sam are helpful and caring. Aunt Violet is a cartoony villain only interested in money.

Violence & Scariness

Toby's beloved dog Lucky is hit by a car off camera, but Toby holds him in his arms in the street until Lucky dies. Toby's mother died two years ago; Toby isn't mourning at all but watches old videos of his mother and looks at pictures of her. Bullies are menacing and shown shaking a kid while holding him upside down. Men on a background TV start punching each other. Lucky hits the bullies in the crotch and on the head with a baseball. Toby and Phoebe tussle with a police officer who's trying to arrest Chet.

Sexy Stuff

Chet goes on a few dates; there's some caressing and a couple of kisses on the cheek.

Language

Infrequent, mild name-calling such as "dolt." Toby tells his aunt, "You suck."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine in moderation on dates. Villain Aunt Violet throws a cigarette butt to the ground and steps on it.

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?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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