Movie review by
Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media
Shelby Movie Poster Image
Heartwarming Christmas comedy is full of canine chaos.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 92 minutes

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The movie teaches the responsibility of owning a pet.

Positive Messages

The importance of family, teamwork, and not judging on first impressions. Strong animal welfare message about treating dogs with love and respect. The festive theme centers on experiencing the real joy of Christmas through making others happy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jake is kind and resourceful, if a little mischievous. His parents are caring and supportive, though distracted by Christmas preparations. Jake's siblings and cousin tease each other, but show great teamwork when it is needed. Initially mean and dangerous, a dog catcher is seen to be capable of change and reveals a more caring side. Stereotypes crop up in a rich woman and her spoiled son, who treat dogs like possessions.

Violence & Scariness

Characters faint to the ground, are held upside down, and fall from ladders. There is mention of rabies and dogs being incinerated. A dog is hit by a car, attacked with a broom, and chased by a dog catcher. One character has a makeshift guillotine, which slices fruit and narrowly misses a dog. There is a passing mention of a dead grandma and of ghosts.

Sexy Stuff

A dinner joke involves comparing human and turkey breasts. A teenager gives their number to another and refers to them as "hot."


Occasional language includes "crap," as well as "sucker," "dummy," "dork," "jerk," and "booger nose." Toilet humor involves words like "butt" and "fart."


The movie opens with people Christmas shopping and carrying wrapped gifts. A rich character treats the dogs at the pound like purchases rather than living animals. They attempt to buy their favorite dog by continually increasing their offer. A child frequently mentions an expensive coat and iPad.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Red wine is consumed with dinner and in the living room on a few occasions. Passing mention of putting brandy in tea.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shelby is a family Christmas comedy about a dog who escapes from the pound and finds a new family. There are moments of mild peril, when the dog -- Shelby (voiced by Rob Schneider) -- is chased and hit by a car. A dog catcher -- played By Tom Arnold -- also features prominently, which may upset younger children, but even he eventually shows a soft side. Loss is mentioned, both in relation to a grandmother and a dog, as well as the implication that dogs at the pound are eventually incinerated. There is some mild language including "crap" and toilet humor involving passing wind and using laxatives, as well as more adult jokes -- such as a comparison between human and turkey breasts. Siblings tease each other and a character holds his younger brother upside down and dips his head into the snow. The children sneak around behind their parents' backs and leave the house alone. Wine is consumed on a few occasions, though nobody is seen drunk. The Christmas theme, coupled with a stereotyped rich parent and spoiled son, gives a materialistic tone to proceedings. But above all, this is an upbeat family movie with a sweet festive message. The movie also goes by the following titles: Shelby: The Dog Who Saved Christmas and Shelby: A Magical Holiday Tail.

Wondering if Shelby is OK for your kids?

Parents: Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

In SHELBY, a dog (voiced by Rob Schneider) escapes the pound just before Christmas and manages to avoid the local dog catcher (Tom Arnold) by hiding in the basement of the Parker household. Young wannabe magician Jake Parker (John Paul Ruttan) befriends the dog -- called Shelby -- and tries to keep him hidden from his family. But when the dog catcher is offered a huge cash sum by a mean rich woman, he ups his search and eventually takes Shelby back to the pound. Can Jake join forces with his siblings and cousin to rescue Shelby and bring him back home? They're going to need a Christmas miracle.

Is it any good?

While a cute dog bringing a family together at Christmas is hardly an original concept, the strong cast and sharp script make this a fun Christmas comedy that ticks all the boxes. Schneider brings Shelby to life with the feeling of an old soul wrapped in young fur, lending a heartfelt sincerity to sad scenes, as well as a sprightly lust for life amid the requisite Christmas chaos. Arnold is perfect as his dog-catcher nemesis, Doug, and the sparring between the two makes for some of the most enjoyable scenes in the movie.

Elsewhere Chevy Chase steals the show as Jake's twinkle-eyed grandfather, and the entire cast of children have lots of fun with their roles. Though there is mild peril and some more somber moments, the movie keeps the atmosphere light and the pace fast enough to make for a fun Christmas movie the whole family can enjoy -- with crazy antics for the kids and a few knowing jokes for the adults.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what Shelby teaches us about how to treat animals? What do you need to know before you adopt a pet? Why is it important to be aware of what owning a pet means before taking on such a responsibility?

  • How did this movie compare to other dog movies? Do you have a favorite?

  • Discuss the character of Doug the dog catcher. Did your impression of him change as the movie progressed? Why must we be careful of first impressions?

  • Discuss how family is portrayed in the movie. How does Shelby help everyone come together?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate