Pocahontas

 
Fine for kids; just don't expect a history lesson.
  • Review Date: June 24, 2003
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2000
  • Running Time: 81 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

The story is historically inaccurate, so many of the "facts" gleaned here are incorrect. Moreover, the fact that the language barrier is a flimsy, quickly-forgotten non-issue is unrealistic.

Positive messages

Pocahontas makes a point to educate John Smith about his use of the word "savages." He assumes that because her people live simply that they are not sophisticated, when in fact, her people use their communication skills in a far more advanced way than John Smith's colleagues do. There are messages that might confuse youngest viewers, such as Governor Ratcliff's assertion that "A man is not a man unless he knows how to shoot."

Positive role models

Pocahontas' father is a caring father to his head-strong daughter. He takes her words very seriously when making a decision. The leadership shown in the British camp is not as thoughtful, or kind.

Violence & scariness

Two Native Americans are shot, one fatally, in poignant scenes. Pocahontas's father nearly executes John Smith during a climactic scene. Much of the plot revolves around two warring factions: the conquerors and the native people. Expect to see knives sharpened and brandished, swords, muskets, and shootouts where men die from bullet wounds. There are perilous scenes on a ship in the ocean, where a man nearly drowns.

Sexy stuff

Considering that this movie is marketed toward the kindergarten set, the long kisses that Pocahontas and John Smith share are pretty steamy. The pair are immediately intimate in their body language, which is also rather mature for the audience.

Language

"Dirty savages,"" filthy heathens," "greedy demons" are phrases that either side uses to make a point about the enemy. A song about savages and the threat of war drives the point home.

Consumerism

Pocahontas is a Disney Princess, whose brand reaches far and wide. Expect to see Princess branding on consumer merchandise, food products, etc. as well as in books, websites, and other media.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

There is a scene on board the ship where a keg of wine is uncorked and men fill their mugs.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the dreamy, music-laden love-story might be engaging to certain fans of the mid-90's Disney heroine, but the violence is something for parents to keep an eye out for. Furthermore, the historical inaccuracy might confuse viewers who think that the historical figure Pocahontas fell in love with John Smith. She did not: she was a 10-year old child when John Smith's ship landed.

What's the story?

Disney's animated POCAHONTAS centers on the titular daughter of Algonquin chief Powhatan, who isn't happy with her upcoming arranged marriage to Kocoum. British settlers arrive in the area, and Pocahontas (voiced by Irene Bedard) falls for John Smith (Mel Gibson). Meanwhile, greedy Governor Ratcliffe (David Ogden Stiers) is certain the Native Americans have access to gold riches and is determined to get his hands on the treasure. Pocahontas and John Smith meet in secret, and when they're discovered it creates a dangerous tension between the Europeans and the Algonquians. The only hope for preventing war lies with Smith and Pocahontas.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Given the choice, children will gravitate toward The Lion King's menagerie of cute talking animals before embracing this history-based follow-up from Disney, but that doesn't make the latter worth passing up. Sensing a hard sell, the Disney folks dropped in a couple of merchandising lures, a frisky raccoon, and a scene-stealing hummingbird who contribute nothing of import to the story, but succeed in livening up what might otherwise have been a fairly somber tale.

This is a movie less concerned with booing the bad guys as it is with cheering on the heroes. The villain isn't a single entity; Governor Ratcliffe embodies the greed, ignorance, and hostility that still haunts our world four hundred years later. Children will sense that, and learn that peace and tolerance are goals well worth striving for.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's historical inaccuracies. For example, the Union Jack hadn't yet been adopted in the early seventeenth century. Do such details bother you?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 6, 2000
DVD release date:June 6, 2000
Cast:Christian Bale, Irene Bedard, Mel Gibson
Director:Mike Gabriel
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Adventures, History, Music and sing-along
Run time:81 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of Pocahontas was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byFirebirds Daughter December 16, 2010
age 2+
 

It's WRONG. It's ALL WRONG.

This movie was so historically inaccurate, it made my brain hurt. None of this happened. Pocahontas fell in love with (and married and had a son with, might I add) a man named John Rowe. Native American women did not run around in mini-skirts. James Smith was never in any actual danger. She was ELEVEN when she met him. I'll grant that it's a Disney movie, and Disney can't be trusted, but this is their worst. Stereotypes are loud and prominent, and the depiction of Powhatan's relationship with Pocahontas is way of mark. James Smith was a liar, only interested in money, fame, power, and not getting thrown in the Tower (which he periodically DID). He never really stayed in Jamestown, that wasn't the way he worked. The Native American's were facing disease and drought, revolution among their own ranks. You CAN make a romantic tragedy out of the story of Pocahontas, but her falling in love with James Smith is just adding insult to injury. Also, James Smith had NO IDEA what any of the Native American's were saying in their own language. This movie is proof that Disney needs to do more research before they make a historical movie. If they weren't trying to pass it off as Pocahontas and if the outfits were a bit more accurate, I MIGHT be willing to hand at least half of it to them.
Parent of a 2 year old Written byslm76 September 8, 2009
age 5+
 
This movie is rated G but I don't see how. It has a tremendous amount of violence and fighting, which is really the main plot of the movie. The British want to "kill" the "savages" (american indians)and this concept is discussed and attempted throughout most of the movie. There isn't much more plot than the fighting, except that John Smith and Pocahontas fall in love and make out. If you show this movie to your child be prepared to discuss shotguns (many shots are taken), death, drowing, and what the word savage means (mentioned dozens of times)
What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written bynduns April 17, 2011
age 8+
 

Kind of average, really

Ah yes, we all remember the Disney Renaissance as the best time for Disney films. However, there were two particular films that, at least in my eyes, came across as just okay, Hercules and this one. However, what I feel makes this a tad better than Hercules is that it not only takes itself more seriously but the characters aren't quite as bland. That said, though, it's nothing special. The best things about the film are the animations and the songs. Menken has never failed to impress me, and this soundtrack is no exception. It's simply beautiful to listen to. The animations are also spectacular, looking very much like a painting and demonstrating many great tactics. That said, though, it annoys me how John Smith is the only character who really develops despite Pocahontas being the title character and how the chemistry between the two lovers is almost non-existent. Seriously, I felt a friendship between the two, but no love. It also doesn't help that Mel Gibson didn't seem to be trying his best this time around. All in all, an okay film but nothing special.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages

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