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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Adventures of Milo and Otis is a classic '80s family film and an entertaining look at how a barn cat and dog befriend each other and are willing to risk everything to help the other survive. Families sensitive to animal rights should know that the movie has since come under scrutiny for having possibly put the various dogs and cats in the film in dangerous situations for the benefit of the plot. The movie shouldn't be mistaken for a documentary, but it does show how dogs and cats deal with other farm and wild animals. There are some frightening situations, especially when Milo and Otis are separated and must face predatory bears, seagulls, and other animals by themselves. In one scene, Milo even jumps off a cliff. The births of a litter of puppies and kittens are depicted, but not in an overly graphic manner. Ultimately, this is a story of an unlikely but unconditional friendship.
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What's the story?
At the start of THE ADVENTURES OF MILO AND OTIS, newborn Milo, a real scamp of a kitten, meets timid puppy Otis and it's the beginning of a hilarious friendship. Trouble finds them everywhere, even in the form of an irritated, nose-tweaking crab! But fun turns into peril when Milo gets swept downriver in a box. Otis follows, trying to rescue his frightened friend. From then on the two have numerous scary encounters -- most notably with a voracious bear who just won't give up -- but eventually Otis rescues his friend. Joyce, another cat, joins Milo and Otis as they try to return to the farm. Otis becomes jealous of the new cat's relationship with Milo and takes off on his own. In the midst of winter, Otis meets and falls for Sandra, another pug. Milo, Otis and their respective mates give birth to many little ones. Milo and Otis reconcile and in the spring, finally head for home.
Is it any good?
In terms of spunkiness, Milo is one of the most high-spirited rascals in children's cinema. Dudley Moore provides the voice of Milo, Otis, and the narrator: he's alternatively excited and droll, speaking for each animal character and providing amusing commentary. Like many adventure tales, The Adventures of Milo and Otis is a coming-of-age story: they leave home for the first time, undergo tests of their courage and friendship, and return ready to accept responsibility. The movie also addresses the cyclical nature of life, demonstrating that birth and death are part of the process. We see animals born and eaten; Milo catches a trout, the raccoon shows up and steals the trout, only to have a bear show up and claim it for himself. Thus, although the animals here have human voices, the movie acknowledges their place in the natural world. Above all, this is story of a friendship. Cat and dog are there for each other in the end. The movie places great value on overcoming differences, suggesting that if Milo and Otis can do it, so can people.
Unfortunately, after the film's release, animal-rights groups in Australia and Europe accused the Japanese filmmakers of cruelty and of killing or injuring the various cats and dogs used in the production for the benefit of the movie's plot. The American Humane Society attempted to investigate the allegations, but nothing was confirmed except for the fact that the movie does not depict any animal injuries or deaths.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the friendship between Milo and Otis. How is it special? How did they prove their loyalty to one another in The Adventures of Milo and Otis? What lessons can we learn from them?
What do you think about the allegations that the filmmakers endangered animals in the making of this movie? Does that change your experience of the film? Does it make you less likely to watch or recommend it?
- In theaters: April 5, 1989
- On DVD or streaming: March 21, 1995
- Cast: Dudley Moore
- Director: Masanori Hata
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Horses and Farm Animals, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 76 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: November 25, 2019
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