A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 1975 Disney Western suffers from the stereotypes of its day, including a stereotypical portrayal of Asian people, and a condescending view of women. When Dusty gets married, she's no longer interested in running her father's business; She puts on a dress and stays home with the kids. There's also mild violence and danger that may frighten very young children, but it's mostly harmless.
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What's the story?
At a stop in Quake city, roaming bachelor Russell Donovan (Bill Bixby) tells a con man named Wintle that he'll wait for the stagecoach to pick up the man's "valuables," which turns out to be three kids. Stuck in the Gold Rush ghost town and saddled with the kids, Donovan tries to pawn his new charges off on hostile townsfolk. Meanwhile, the kids (Stacy Manning, Clay O'Brien, and Brad Savage) explore their family's gold mine. After a near disastrous cave-in, the kids find a 300-pound gold nugget. Suddenly those apathetic townsfolk are so concerned about the kids' welfare that they're tearing at Celia's new dress and the town dumb criminals Theodore and Amos (Don Knotts and Tim Conway) hatch a scheme to take that gold for themselves. But when Wintle returns to claim the kids and the riches, Donovan and the kids have to act quickly to outwit him.
Is it any good?
THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG is full of thrills and adventure exciting enough to keep kids interested, while mild enough not to frighten more sensitive kids. Knotts and Conway carry the film with their slapstick, and they're the characters kids are likely to remember and love. Though the film may seem dated now, the mild hijinx and silly fun, wild races and chases, and wacky characters are enough to keep kids giggling.
The only drawback is the outdated and offensive portrayals of women and Asian Americans, as shown in the Asian camp next to Quake City and the romance between Dusty (Susan Clark) and Donovan. Dusty jumps at the chance to marry Donovan, trading in her Old West gear for dresses and losing interest in running her father's stagecoach business.
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