A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Napoleon is a 1995 movie about a spunky young golden retriever who thinks he can live in the wild. There are some scary scenes involving a feral black cat who hisses and threatens to kill Napoleon; these scenes are accompanied by "horror movie"-style background music. There's also a scene where Napoleon falls from the sky in a basket and crashes into rocks, turning end over end, among other scenes where Napoleon faces peril. There's some name-calling and mild profanity ("dork," "sucks.") For parents, some of the shriller animal voices might prove annoying over repeated viewings, but there are some humorous references for older audiences -- for instance, Napoleon meets two wild puppies named Sid and Nancy.
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What's the story?
Muffin is a golden retriever puppy who believes he's a tough and adventurous type and would rather be named Napoleon (voiced by Jamie Croft). While in the backyard during a child's birthday party, Napoleon ends up in a basket tied to helium balloons; much to the panic of his mother, the balloons untie from their moorings and send Napoleon skyward. With the "help" of his new friend Birdo (Maurice LaMarche), Napoleon crash lands on rocks, with miles of ocean separating him from the city life he left behind. Delighted, Napoleon plans on becoming the wild and free dog he always wanted to be, wanting nothing more than to join a pack of wild dogs, whose howling he hears and tries to find. But life in the wild is not everything it's cracked up to be, as Napoleon must avoid the predations of a deranged black cat who thinks Napoleon is a mouse intruder, as well as fires, snakes, and Gila monsters. He must also learn to hunt and kill in the wild. During these adventures, Napoleon -- with help from his new friends -- must decide whether or not he is truly suited for "the wild life," or if he'd be better off at home with his mother.
Is it any good?
NAPOLEON is a mostly-cute talking animal movie best enjoyed by young grade-schoolers, in spite of some of the scarier scenes that tend to lessen the overall cuteness. While the saccharine musical numbers feel a bit cheesy and forced, and some of the voicings of the animals will prove shrill and annoying over repeated viewings, when the movie focuses on the actual adventures Napoleon undertakes, it teaches important lessons about nature, animals in the wild, and what happens when you try to be something that you're not.
What particularly works well in Napoleon is the sheer number of animals Napoleon meets along the way -- everything from porcupines to owls, iguanas to koalas. The movie has much to teach about the behaviors of these animals, and should inspire family discussion and curiosity about their behavior. It's a little too cute for older tweens, but younger kids -- especially those who love puppies and wild animals -- should find much to enjoy in this movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies with talking animals. How does this movie compare with other movies where animals' personalities are voiced by actors?
What were the different personalities of the animals? Which animals were your favorites, and how can you learn more about them?
Do you think the scary scenes were necessary for the story? Why or why not?
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