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Superpower Dogs

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Superpower Dogs Movie Poster Image
Science docu unleashes pup power potential; mild peril.
  • G
  • 2019
  • 45 minutes

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Dogs from around the world are trained to use their super senses and skills to save and heal others. Clear visuals are shown to guide viewers' understanding of why each featured breed has a physical makeup that makes it ideal for its task. Different cultures are observed.

Positive Messages

Great example of teamwork between humans and dogs as they help people and save lives. Strong message of perseverance as Dutch Shepherd puppy Halo must train for more than a year to pass a test so she can be a search-and-rescue partner for her human.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While dogs are the primary focus, their brave, admirable human counterparts also dedicate their lives to helping others. Men and women from America, Canada, Italy, and Africa are featured, with the greatest focus on Cat, a woman on an elite disaster rescue team who raises and trains Halo to be her partner.

Violence & Scariness

Local patrols sworn to protect a Kenyan wildlife preserve carry guns and, in one posed moment, have the weapons drawn and pointed at potential threats. Talk of illegal hunters trying to shoot and kill elephants. Snippets of TV broadcasts about natural disasters around the globe, including tsunami flooding in Japan, hurricane winds, giant piles of rubble from a catastrophe. A skier is swallowed by an avalanche (he's rescued).

Sexy Stuff
Language

Mention of dogs "peeing."

Consumerism

Mars Petcare is the principal sponsor that funded the documentary; an ad-like piece for the company plays before the film. Chris Evans is the narrator; his character, Captain America, is portrayed as cool.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Superpower Dogs is an IMAX documentary about dogs who've been trained to use their "super" senses to help humans. The film explains the physiology that makes particular breeds great at certain tasks -- like a Newfoundland's webbed toes, which aid in water rescues, or the extra-large olfactory area of a bloodhound's nose, which helps it track missing children or illegal hunters. Trainers' techniques are shown, so you might just pick up a few tricks to try on your own pet. The IMAX cinematography shows off the magnitude of a snow-covered mountain during an avalanche. Other natural disasters are also shown briefly, there's talk of illegal hunters trying to shoot and kill elephants, and a scene shows law enforcement officers posing with their guns drawn. Otherwise, there's very little iffy content -- and by playing up the idea of pets as superheroes, this science film is as entertaining as it is educational. Chris "Captain America" Evans (a well-documented dog lover) narrates.

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What's the story?

SUPERPOWER DOGS is a made-for-IMAX documentary that demonstrates that our pets are capable of having superpowers. With the help of loving humans who help train their sharp senses, the featured dogs are shown to have the ability to save lives and help those in need. It turns out that their incredible skills are mostly a matter of science. Chris Evans narrates.

Is it any good?

IMAX movies can always be counted on for gorgeous, immersive cinematography, but this one takes it further in making science playful and fun. Superpower Dogs speaks to kids about the stuff they love: superheroes and pet dogs. In this case, it shows how dogs have "super senses" and documents the way that certain breeds can hone these senses to save lives and help people. The stories brought to light include a Border Collie on a ski patrol rescue team, a Newfoundland in the Italian Coast Guard, "The Bloodhound Brothers" (who save endangered species from hunters), and a surfing Golden Retriever that helps people deal with anxiety and fear. 

It's easy-peasy science: Clear graphics demonstrate why certain breeds are adept at certain skills; for instance, how a bloodhound's nose is physiologically wired for keen scent detection. Most of the film shows the animals hard at work, either tracking down bad guys, training to rescue survivors, or providing emotional support with the aid of humans who give them plenty of ear scratches, belly rubs, and love. The movie's message isn't just about the animals' amazing capabilities; it argues that it's the bond between human and animal that creates the superpower. In other words, together with our four-legged friends, we can be both super and heroes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes each of the featured canines in Superpower Dogs good at their job. What makes them exceptional enough to do such high-stakes, important work, as opposed to untrained dogs of the same breed? What's your superpower? What do you need to do to hone it to a superior level?

  • Do the dogs exhibit courage? Do you think they get scared? What do we see Cat do to help Halo be comfortable walking across the ladder? The humans in the film don't show fear; what do you think fuels their bravery?

  • How do the featured dogs and their partners exhibit teamwork? Why is this an important life skill?

  • In the training exercises, Halo isn't "perfect" at his schooling; sometimes he just wants to play! Why is it important to have the self-control to focus on education at certain times and fun at other times? Halo gets a reward when he succeeds. What kind of reward do we get for success in school and in sports? 

  • How is perseverance demonstrated in the film? Why is this an important character strength in the work the dogs and their human partners do?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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