The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island Movie Poster Image
Sequel has simple story, leisurely pace, and mild action.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 82 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Identifies and explains origin of windmills, axe head artifact, human bone, tides, Polaris (North Star).

Positive Messages

Values promoted: teamwork, cooperation, joy of creating a habitat, beauty of nature. Some overt messages, such as "something hidden is always a burden" and "everything seems better when we make it ourselves." Running away doesn't solve problems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Boxcar Children treat each other with respect; they are brave, loyal, hard-working, kind, love to explore and experience new adventures. Adult characters are supportive, reliable, generous. No ethnic diversity.

Violence & Scariness

A scary storm. A tidal wave briefly threatens the children, who are in a cave. Benny falls into the waves. A visual of a human skeleton.

Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

The second film released by Shout! Factory. The second book in a series, followed by dozens of other Boxcar Mysteries.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island is the sequel to 2014's The Boxcar Children. Both movies are based on books by Gertrude Chandler Warren, the first in an ongoing series of children's books that were introduced in 1924 about a family of orphaned children who learned to thrive on their own and ultimately solved simple mysteries. To date, there are more than 150 books. This film (based on the book published in 1949) begins one year after the Alden kids have moved into their grandfather's home. They're excited to spend the summer on a small, family-owned island. Once again, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny get to create a "home" for themselves, this time in proximity to and watched over by the island caretaker. Though the story has a bit of mystery, there are no villains and only a few briefly suspenseful moments, including a scary storm, a tidal wave, and a dark cave. One of the kids falls into the ocean but is quickly rescued. Plentiful messages about teamwork, facing your problems, and the bountiful joys of exploration and adventure are included. OK for kids who are comfortable with some mild action.

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What's the story?

Henry (voiced by Griffin Gluck), Jessie (Joey King), Violet (Talitha Bateman), and Benny (Carter Sand) have been living with their caring grandfather (Martin Sheen) for a year when THE BOXCAR CHILDREN: SURPRISE ISLAND opens. Grandfather delights the kids when he tells them about an island upon which they'll spend the summer. It's a family-owned island, maintained by a loyal caretaker. The four children will mostly be on their own to create a living space out of a barn and explore the island to their heart's content. The kids proceed with joy. The barn becomes a cheerful and "fully equipped" home. They meet Joe (Dane DeHaan), a young man who helps the caretaker out while he recovers from an injury. Joe is another surprise. Filled with knowledge about just about everything (the stars, ancient artifacts), he becomes a mentor and a good friend. There's something familiar about Joe, and in time, as the kids come to rely on him as they venture into the island's rich history, they'll come to learn his secret. 

Is it any good?

The animation is adequate at best and the pace is slow, but the Alden children are engaging and resourceful role models in this adaptation of the 1949 book and sequel to the 2014 movie. Martin Sheen, J.K. Simmons, and Dane DeHaan add some marquee value as voices for the adult characters, but it's the kids who are front and center in The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island. Given the fact that there are more than 150 books in The Boxcar Children series, this venture may be just the beginning of another "endless" franchise. It would be best if the filmmakers used their 2014 movie as a template for future movies, rather than this slower, more tepid effort.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movie sequels. Have you seen the original 2014 movie The Boxcar Children? How do you think The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island compares with the earlier one? What did you like about it? Do you think that it lived up to the expectations set by the first one?

  • Stories about kids who survive on their own are very popular. What makes them so appealing? Have you ever imagined having to fend for yourself? With the other kids in your family? Would you be in charge? Why or why not?

  • This movie states: "Everything seems better when we make it ourselves." What does this mean? Do you agree? What are some specific examples from your life in which you've found this to be true?

Movie details

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