A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Themes of forgiveness and teamwork.
Positive Role Models
Charlie is a pet who's more than a companion: He looks out for his family. Robert is a brilliant inventor with a good heart, but his obsession with his work makes him a distracted, if not neglectful, dad. Characters show willingness to take responsibility for hurtful actions, to apologize, to forgive.
While a team of inventors is diverse in terms of gender and race, other aspects of movie's representation are problematic. An older Black man who offers helpful advice plays into the Magical Negro cliché. A character with a larger body type is portrayed as clumsy and uncoordinated. A Chihuahua is voiced with a "Mexican" accent by a White actor. And a blind character is duped due to her lack of sight.
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Violence & Scariness
Lots of slapstick live-action violence that would cause serious injuries in real life, including many serious falls and blows to the head with heavy objects. No crotch is safe here. Recurring bit about dogs growling at and "biting" the mail carrier (just his pants are ripped). Characters are still mourning the death of a mother/wife.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kisses. References to broken hearts. Romantic attraction.
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Language includes "ass" "balls," and "goddamn," as well as insults like "idiot," "numb nuts," "stupid," and "shut up." "Oh my God" is used as an exclamation. Potty/bathroom humor.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Villain puffs on a cigar. Adult characters appear to drink beer and wine. References to getting drunk and having hangovers, but no one ever appears intoxicated.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pups Alone is a Home Alone knockoff with dogs intervening to stop burglars while their owners are away during Christmas. The storyline follows a distracted father (Tyler Hollinger) who hasn't moved on after his wife's death and doesn't give his tween daughter (Isadora Swann) the attention she needs. It's full of over-the-top slapstick violence that would cause serious injuries in real life, mostly serious falls or being hit with heavy objects. While it does have some funny moments, it also features jokes at the expense of a blind character and has other problematic representations. Expect a lot of rude humor -- think farting dogs, flying poop, and frequent insults ("numb nuts," "idiot"). Additionally, a rich boss (Eric Roberts) uses some profanity ("ass," "goddamn") and tells an employee, "Let's get drunk!" Other characters drink beer and wine, and the main character makes a joke about the hangover he's going to have, although no one ever appears to be intoxicated. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is like the dog slobber of family comedy: It's kind of cute and funny, but mostly it's all wet. It features an enormous cast of folks who look familiar but maybe haven't been working as much as they used to -- and it's not their fault this film is so underwhelming. It's just sloppily made. While the script has some laugh-out-loud moments, particularly for kids who love gross-out humor (a dog passing gas in the face of criminals is particularly memorable), it lacks logic. And the camerawork and editing are terrible. Swooping close-ups jolt viewers into discomfort -- not to mention, it kills the jokes. The editing is amateur at best: One scene plays the same cut three times, twice with the audio dropped out.
The funniest performance in the movie is Rob Schneider's as José, the Chihuahua next door. Many viewers are likely to find the things José barks out hilarious. But even though Schneider's wife is from Mexico and he's fully bilingual, this is a White actor -- one with a reputation for playing offensive roles, including characters whose ethnicities are different from his own (Bedtime Stories, Don't Mess with the Zohan, 50 First Dates) -- putting on a Mexican accent. Not cool. Elsewhere in the cast, Hollinger gets most of the screen time and is good enough that this role might just get him cast playing a dad on a Disney Channel series. The other standout is Keith David, whose eloquent charm almost makes up for the fact that his character fits the Magical Negro trope. As unoriginal as it is, Pups Alone might still have been OK, but the director clearly didn't care enough to put in the effort, allowing it to -- yes -- go to the dogs.
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.