A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Concepts promoted: standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves and families working through grief together. Misguided efforts to "sacrifice a few to save many" can be harmful, even cruel.
Positive Role Models
Though Jake and Abbie disobey parental instructions, their hearts are in the right place. Jake is compassionate, loyal, determined, and committed to a righteous cause. Parental figures are reliable, caring, though sometimes mistaken. Prime villain is U.S. military -- stereotyped colonel who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
Violence & Scariness
Several action sequences show attacks (by soldiers and armed drones) on stampeding, prehistoric animals who have come to life. A sympathetic "pet" dinosaur is aggressively attacked, tranquilized, then hung by chains. A gigantic sea creature lurches into the air and lunges for two men on a boat. Prehistoric (and frightening) animals emerge from mounds of blue goop. Boys on bikes are chased.
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Occasional mild swearing: "pissed off," "crap," "hell," "douche-bag," "screwed." Frequent name-calling: "idiot," "nerd," "jerk," "dork," "moron." A character falls just short of calling someone a "d--k."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that My Pet Dinosaur is a live-action film about the surprising appearance of prehistoric animals in a modern-day setting, an evil military force who is on the attack, and a boy grieving for his father. Though the film was made in Australia, events depicted are in small-town America. In addition to the action-packed clashes between the US military, the creatures, and the kids, the movie deals with a family in trouble and a misguided attempt "to sacrifice a few to save many." The mostly reptilian animals, which roar and menace, are subject to assaults by gunfire and armed drones. Kids are chased, held against their will, and threatened. A few swear words (i.e., "pissed off," "hell," "crap") as well as insults and taunts (i.e., "moron," "idiot," "douche-bag") are heard. Only suitable for middle grades and up who are at ease with real versus pretend violence. (Spoiler alert: a sequence in which well-loved dinosaur is shot multiple times, tranquilized, and then found alive but hanging by chains from the roof of a facility may be disturbing even for some older kids.) 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 isn't the low-budget attempt to recreate a pantheon of prehistoric animals that sinks this earnest effort, it's the routine story, a number of subpar performances, and the ungraceful editing. Far from original, My Pet Dinosaur is a derivative entry in the science fiction subgenre: "boys on bicycles uncover a sinister plot involving aliens or beasts or evil scientists."
The dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures -- particularly little Magnus evolving from baby to adult -- are actually endearing, throwbacks to early efforts before Spielberg and Jurassic Park became the gold standard of such creature features. Still, for kids who are new to this well-worn plot and the cliches of kids still grieving for a lost parent then reconciling with their troubled families, it may be enough to engage them. Caution (and spoiler alert): some of the cruelty perpetrated on Jake's lovable pet may be too much for young or highly sensitive kids.
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.