A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No real messages.
Positive Role Models
Wintle abandons three orphaned kids that he's supposed to take care of, which is treated as an irresponsible thing to do; similarly with the main character, Donovan, when he leaves them unsupervised in order to feed what is presented to be a gambling addiction. Meanwhile, he and his love interest, Dusty, are presented as good when they take care of those same children.
Except for one minor Latino villain, the only non-White characters in the film are a community of Chinese people treated stereotypically. (They yell at the main characters in unsubtitled Chinese, portrayed as mean and silly while cleaning laundry.) The film also promotes traditional gender norms as the only "correct" way to be: Dusty, Donovan's love interest, is disappointed when he treats her as an equal instead of "thinking of her as a woman." Throughout the film, she's employed and wears traditionally male clothing but in the film's final scene, she's wearing a dress for the first time and jokes about keeping Donovan's gambling in line -- a cliche about wives having to be responsible for their husbands' morality.
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Violence & Scariness
Slapstick violence, including Amos falling off a roof, the kids flying through town on an out-of-control gold mine cart, lots of chasing and crashing, and some explosions. The kids are alone in a mine when it begins to collapse; they have to run away and are nearly crushed by it. There's a shoot-out at the end of the film in which some characters appear to be shot, but there's no blood, and no one is seriously injured. Lots of people point guns at each other. Dusty throws things at Donovan and hits him with a pool stick. The Stillwell Gang kidnaps the kids. Stillwell tries to strangle Donovan. A child is grabbed roughly enough by townsfolk that her new dress tears.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Donovan and Dusty kiss.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several characters smoke, including Donovan and Amos. A woman appears drunk and drops and breaks a beer bottle. Col. Clydesdale gets drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Apple Dumpling Gang, a 1975 Disney Western, stereotypically portrays Asian people and actively promotes traditional gender roles as the only "correct" way to be. Dusty (Susan Clark) and Donovan (Bill Bixby) -- but especially Dusty -- develop feelings for each other; they eventually share a kiss. There's also mild violence and danger that may frighten very young children, but it's mostly slapstick. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Full of thrills and adventure exciting enough to keep kids interested, this comedic Western is mild enough not to frighten more sensitive kids. Knotts and Conway carry The Apple Dumpling Gang through a straightforward plot with their slapstick, and they're the characters kids are likely to remember and love. Though the effects may seem dated now, the mild hijinx and silly fun, wild races and chases, and wacky characters are enough to keep kids giggling.
The main drawbacks are a cliched plot and offensive portrayals of Latinos and Asian Americans (as shown in the Chinese laundromat). The film also leans on gender stereotypes, seen in the romance between Dusty and Donovan: Donovan settles down and becomes a "family man" while Dusty gives up her job to become his wife and a homemaker. While there's nothing wrong with this dynamic, The Apple Dumpling Gang presents it as the only way to be happy.
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.