A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Owd Bob is a 1998 film in which the main characters struggle to come to terms with the recent deaths of loved ones. An American teenage boy, orphaned after his parents were killed by a drunk driver, is sent to the Isle of Man to live with his only living relative, a widower grandfather. While the boy tries adjusting to his new life, the mother of the only friend he has dies of cancer. As if this wasn't enough, one of the old sheepdogs in the village is now killing sheep and must be put down. While the death is not shown, the shot is audible. There's also some mild language ("hell," "damn") and drinking. Families looking for a light-hearted dog movie should look elsewhere, as this film is the epitome of the term "tearjerker."
What's the story?
After the death of his parents to a drunk driver, American teenager David Roberts is sent to live with his grandfather (James Cromwell), a sheepherder on the Isle of Man. David's grandfather is an embittered widower who lives in conflict with neighbors who think his sheepdog Zac is responsible for the recent killings of sheep, and maintains a lengthy grudge with his neighbors, the Moores. Nonetheless, David tries to make the best of his new life, helping his grandfather out with the chores, and befriending the Moores' teenage daughter Maggie (Jemima Looper). David befriends the entire Moore family, including their beloved sheepdog, Owd Bob. It's up to David to try and mediate peace between the Moores and his grandfather, even as a tragedy befalls the Moores, the men of the village try to ascertain whether it's Zac or Owd Bob who is killing the sheep, and David's grandfather -- engulfed in deep sorrow over the loss of his family -- believes himself unfit to take care of David.
Is it any good?
While the shots of the Isle of Man in OWD BOB are certainly beautiful, and the acting is, on the whole, quite good, the difficulties with the movie lie in trying to do too much with the story. Is this a "dog movie," as the film's title implies, or is it a "coming-of-age" movie about an orphaned teenager trying to start anew, or is it about an embittered grandfather who must learn to set aside grudges and past tragedies? There's so much death, dying, and grieving -- and villagers in the middle of this trying to put the blame on the mauling of their sheep on the two main dogs in the film -- that the story feels muddled.
For younger viewers, this steady talk of death and scenes of funerals will be too much to handle. This isn't for families looking for a more light-hearted dog movie. Nonetheless, for all the times the story feels forced and overwhelming, the "heavy" subject matter isn't as heavy-handed as it could have been, and the scenes of the sheepdogs practicing and performing in competitions will be entertaining for dog lovers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's setting. How is the culture of the small village in the Isle of Man conveyed in this film? How is the relationship of sheepherders to their dogs conveyed?
How is the grieving process of characters who lose loved ones shown in the film, and how accurately do you think this reflects real life?
What similarities and differences do you see between this film and other "dog movies?"
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