The Adventures of the American Rabbit

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Adventures of the American Rabbit Movie Poster Image
Message-laden superhero tale is trite and uninspiring.
  • G
  • 1986
  • 82 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids get a look at some of the features of San Francisco, New York City, New Orleans, and the Grand Canyon. They are identified by name, landmarks, and certain cultural attributes.

Positive Messages

Every few minutes the story and action stop so that an undisguised positive message can be delivered to the viewer: "It's important to play fair, cooperate and be honest,"  "Judge people by what they do, not what they look like," "It's important to feel the music as well as play the notes," "A hero works hard to make the world a better place," "You can't give in to threats and bullying," "We're lost without the courage to stick together."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Efforts have been made to show a diversified population; many different species live together in harmony. Rob Rabbit has all the traits of the hero: He's unselfish, brave, honest, considerate, smart, and uses his super powers only for good. On the other hand, the villains are always ruthless and evil, and the central female character is coy, flirts, and often bats her eyelashes.

Violence & Scariness

Cartoon action. Characters are saved from a falling rock, a pack of menacing jackals, a shipboard fire and explosion, drowning in a tank, going over a waterfall, and a plot to dynamite the Statue of Liberty. No one is hurt or killed.

Sexy Stuff

Minor flirting.

Language

The villainous boss insults his troops continuously (i.e., "dummies," "stupid," "nincompoops," etc.).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink a foamy liquid from a beer mug in a nightclub. One inebriated dog is rousted by  a gang of evil jackals as he drinks from a bottle in a brown paper bag.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, in true superhero tradition, Rob Rabbit (in his role as the very patriotic "American Rabbit") frequently averts disaster in the nick of time. He manages to save the citizenry from explosions, fires, a dangerous waterfall, and an attempt to blow up the Statue of Liberty, all of which have been instigated by dastardly villains. It's all clearly cartoon violence, and though the victims are mildly frightened before they're saved, there's no attempt at heightened suspense or danger. The main bad guy constantly berates his followers, calling them countless insulting and disrespectful names. Many heavy-handed messages are delivered, but they're notalways modeled. For example, Rob Rabbit often talks about the importance of teamwork, but except for one short group protest, he works entirely alone.

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What's the story?

At a very early age, Rob Rabbit (voiced by Barry Gordon) is discovered to be "The American Rabbit," whose destiny is to save the world. Leaving his family behind, Rob sets out to secretly right wrongs, protect his fellow citizens (a grand conglomerate of animals, large and small), and use his very special powers to conquer evil. The legacy requires that he never let anyone find out that quiet, unassuming Rob Rabbit is really a superhero. On his urgent mission, he roller skates on the ground and soars through the sky clothed in an American flag. In short order he encounters a pack of evil jackals that vandalizes, threatens, and destroys everything its path in a quest for ultimate power. In the words of Vultor (Kenneth Mars), their leader, "We torture, terrorize, lie, cheat, steal; that's our job." Fortunately for The American Rabbit's friends and his country, it's his job to stop them.

Is it any good?

The unimaginative, simplistic animation in this film goes hand in hand with a trite story and zealous moralizing (not always associated with the events at hand). There are scenes that make no sense either standing on their own or as part of a whole. Motivations change from moment to moment. Characters forge ahead, oblivious to what happened only a scene earlier. And, with the exception of Rob Rabbit, the threatened citizens -- though gentle and sweet-natured -- are portrayed as foolish and naive. That doesn't leave much to recommend.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes a superhero super? Other than their powers, what qualities do they often have in common?

  • Rob Rabbit talks about not "generalizing" about groups; in this case, he warns about saying or thinking that all jackals are evil. Would it have helped Rob's case if there had been at least one jackal that was good? Can you think of other groups about whom people unfairly generalize?

  • In a cartoon like this one, the danger to the characters is make believe. How do you know the difference between real and pretend violence?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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