A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie teaches the responsibility of owning a pet.
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
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A dinner joke involves comparing human and turkey breasts. A teenager gives their number to another and refers to them as "hot."
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Occasional language includes "crap," as well as "sucker," "dummy," "dork," "jerk," and "booger nose." Toilet humor involves words like "butt" and "fart."
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
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.