A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Boxcar Children is a very gentle, uplifting story of four orphaned children who take responsibility for their lives and create a home in which they survive and flourish. The movie taps into the common childhood fantasy of independence and an instinctive ability to provide for oneself and other kids (often brothers and sisters). Mild suspense accompanies Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny as they stay hidden from an adult world they believe to be threatening (they run from adults who want to send the youngest boy to an orphanage and are fearful of an estranged grandfather whom they perceive as mean and unloving). Based on the Boxcar Children series, the first book of which was written in 1924 by first-grade teacher Gertrude Chandler Warner, it's an old-fashioned story that promotes clear values of loyalty, resourcefulness, and love. The hopeful resolution will satisfy and inspire. More than a hundred books followed the iconic original, most devoted to the Boxcar kids as mystery solvers.
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What's the story?
THE BOXCAR CHILDREN tells the moving story of four orphaned children who set off to build a home together. Fearful that their grandfather will be unkind and uncaring -- he "hated" their mother and never attempted to contact the family -- they feel they're better off on their own. After a brief respite in a bakery and an escape from the owners who want to take the youngest to an orphanage, they find themselves in an idyllic forest in a natural world of plenty. And, in an amazing stroke of good luck, an abandoned boxcar stands as if it's always been waiting for them. The children, led by the oldest, Henry (Zachary Gordon), and big sister Jessie (Joey King), cleverly use all the resources at hand to fulfill their dream of a comfortable home. The little ones, Violet (Mackenzie Foy) and Benny (Jadon Sand), bring joy, hope, and optimism to the endeavor. It's all working well, especially when Henry finds work in a generous doctor's home and is able to provide for them all. It isn't until Violet becomes ill that the children realize they may not be able to do it all on their own. Dr. Moore (J.K. Simmons) and a kindly stranger (Martin Sheen) prove to be more than interested onlookers, and the Boxcar kids find that trusting the right people can make all the difference.
Is it any good?
Visually beautiful, well-acted, and with a classic story well told, this is a satisfying, moving film. Considerably slower and more deliberate than most 21st-century children's fare,The Boxcar Children takes hold of and carries the viewer into the lovely world of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. In that world of abundance and beauty, people are generally kind. It's an idealized, heartwarming tale that looks at kids who never argue, work together without complaint, and find joy in even life's smallest treasures. Good deeds are rewarded; endings are happy. Highly recommended for families who will enjoy sharing that special world, if only for the time it takes to watch it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies made from books. What are some reasons filmmakers might have to change the book when they make a film? Which stories have you both read and seen that stay true to the intention and heart of the book? Did seeing The Boxcar Children make you want to read the book?
Stories and adventures about kids who must fend for themselves are very popular. Have you ever pretended to be all on your own? Why is it fun to read, watch, or play such a story?
Why did Dr. Moore refuse to take the reward money from Mr. Alden? What did he want more than money? If he had been poor, do you think it would have been OK for him to accept the reward? Why, or why not?
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