Shiloh

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Shiloh Movie Poster Image
Book-based dog tale has some emotional intensity.
  • PG
  • 1996
  • 93 minutes

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

Positive Messages

Lying to your parents can destroy your parents' trust in you. Work hard for what you want. It's important to keep one's promises.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Marty is a compassionate boy who wants to save a beagle from his abusive owner. He lives in the country and carries a shotgun, but he would never kill anything. He works odd jobs to earn enough so he can buy the dog from the abuser. The owner cheats and breaks the law and is mean to his animals but that may be because he himself was beaten as a child. It's implied that an adult character can't read or write very well. The town doctor is kind and generous.

Violence

A mildly bloody wound is seen on a dog's brow. Two dogs fight and one is injured on the leg. A little blood is seen and a doctor fixes him up. Before the action starts a girl's parents were killed in a car accident. A man threatens to shoot a dog if he runs away again. Marty tries to wrestle an adult to the ground when the man tries to take the beagle from Marty.

Sex

A young girl kisses a young boy on the cheek as he recoils and wipes it off.

Language

"Pee."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man drinks several beers in the morning, as if it were his usual habit.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shiloh is a sweet 1996 drama based on the Newbery Medal-winning novel of the same name by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor about a boy who saves a beagle from an abusive hunter. The hunter kicks the dog and a small wound is seen on the dog's brow, but no other animal abuse is actually seen, just threatened. Two dogs fight and the smaller sustains a leg injury, but little blood is seen. Before the action starts a girl's parents were killed in a car accident. A man threatens to shoot a dog if he runs away again. Marty tries to wrestle an adult to the ground when the man tries to take the beagle from Marty. A man drinks several beers in the morning, as if it were his usual habit.

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What's the story?

"SHILOH" is the name young Marty (Blake Heron) gives the abused beagle he finds near a country bridge. The dog, a particularly adorable hound, follows him home. When Marty asks his parents if he can keep it, his father Ray (Michael Moriarty) says no because it belongs to Judd (Scott Wilson), a poor, sad, lonely hunter living in the woods. When they return the dog, Judd declares that if the dog runs away again he will shoot it, alarming Marty. Marty offers to buy the dog but Judd says it's not for sale. Marty works odd jobs to make enough money to buy the dog, thinking Judd will let the dog go if he comes up with enough. When the dog runs off again and turns up at Marty's, he hides Shiloh from his parents until a bigger dog injures the beagle, requiring medical attention. Determined to keep the dog, Marty strikes a bargain, sealed by a piece of paper signed by Judd stating that in exchange for 20 hours of manual labor performed by Marty on Judd's property, the dog will go to Marty. Judd reneges on the deal, which leads to a final confrontation.  

Is it any good?

Veteran performers Scott Wilson, Michael Moriarty, and Ann Dowd (as Marty's sympathetic mother) give Shiloh solid grounding even if it echoes many boy-and-his-dog stories. However, without over-explaining anything, the movie offers more depth than the usual such fare. The movie's bad guy was once a kid who played with Marty's dad, and his dad was famously mean and abusive, suggesting that Judd might be a better guy if he'd had better parents. The movie also offers a sympathetic way of assessing the villain, hinting that drinking and educational limits have turned him meaner than he might otherwise have been. For those reasons this movie will probably be best for tweens and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what to do when we encounter wrongdoing. If someone is hurting an animal or a child, or someone is stealing or otherwise doing harm, would it be safe to try to stop them yourself? Would it be better to tell a police officer or a grownup?

  • The movie says that the trouble with lying is that it destroys people's trust in the liar. Do you think it is ever a good idea to lie? Under what circumstances?

  • How does this movie compare to other dog tales you've seen?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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