A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids will learn a bit about the fact that the Soviet Union had a space dog program that trained Moscow strays to be sent into space under the Sputnik space program. Obviously those dogs weren't trained by another dog or evaluated by a psychoanalyst cat, but there really were Russian space dogs named Belka and Strelka, and young children will be interested in them and the entire canine space program after seeing the movie. It's also true that Soviet Premier Khrushchev gave President Kennedy's daughter Caroline a puppy named Pushinka, whose mother was Belka the space dog. There's also a lot of Moscow pride as depicted by the continued close-ups of the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman statue and other recognizable landmarks.
Space Dogs features several positive messages about friendship, loyalty, family, and the ties that bind children to their parents, even if they've never met them. National pride in the Sputnik space program is evident, especially since this is a Russian film.
Positive Role Models
Belka and Strelka overcome their initial wariness (and hostility) toward each other to realize they're in similar circumstances and should become allies, not enemies. In space, the two dogs use all of the skills they learned in training to survive an unexpected set of perils. The hardened trainer realizes he's actually smitten with Belka. Both female dogs are quite strong personalities that can hold their own against the male characters.
Violence & Scariness
A few scenes of potential peril -- particularly during the actual space mission, when a fire erupts in the shuttle and the rat Venya appears unconscious. During the training sequence, the cat shrink chases Venya and has one of the mice in his mouth until Kazbek saves it, and a bunch of other dogs are kicked out of the program for not being able to handle or complete various exercises that in some cases leave them injured. Belka and Strelka tussle a few times until they become good friends. Some very young children will be frightened that both Belka and Strelka were separated from their mother/circus family.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Belka and Kazbek fall in love over the course of the training camp, and they briefly lick and nuzzle each other's snouts while in space. It's implied that they're the parents of the puppy that's given to Caroline Kennedy.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Some insults like "filthy beast," "idiot," "stupid," and the like.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Space Dogs is a Russian animated adventure that follows the historical story of the first dogs to return from space alive. The Sputnik tale is for the whole family but does include a few mild insults, some scenes of potential peril, and the sadness of the two main dogs, who are both removed from their loved ones. Families who are sensitive to exposing their children to topics relating to communism or the former Soviet Union should know that this is a Russian film that portrays the Sputnik space program with pride and even provides a short little tour of the famous Worker and Kolkhoz Woman statue that was created for the Soviet Pavilion at the World's Fair. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Space Dogs' animation isn't up to Hollywood's feature standards (this was a wide release overseas), but it's better than the CGI used in many other straight-to-DVD films in the States. Because the English is dubbed over the Russian (as in Japanese anime films), some of the mouth movements are slightly out of sync, but again this isn't something most children will pick up on as they watch. What really sells this movie, particularly for American kids, is that it's such an unknown, unique story.
However embellished the tale of Belka and Strelka may be for the sake of the movie, they really did exist, and there really was a program to collect stray dogs from the streets of Moscow and enter them in the Sputnik dog-training program. While many children learn about Laika, who sadly died shortly after being sent into space, most kids have no idea about the subsequent Sputnik canines, and this film will educate kids (and parents!) about the other side of the space race.
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.