The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes
1960s Disney comedy has lesson on fame's price.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that groovy duds and gigantic computers are sure to amuse modern young viewers. Some of the scenes of Dexter's abduction feature thugs with guns. The thugs even shoot at the truck Dexter's friends are driving, but it is portrayed in a slapstick, cartoonish way.
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What's the Story?
This wacky Disney comedy features a young Kurt Russell as a kid named Dexter whose fate becomes intertwined with a computer's, making him suddenly the smartest man on Earth. When Medfield College finds that it can't afford one of the newfangled computers that the larger universities possesses, they turn to a local executive to donate the funds to buy one. Little do the regents know that the executive, A.J. Arno (Cesar Romero), is running an illegal gambling ring. Enter goofy, but darling Dexter (Kurt Russell) who gets a shock from a computer he is trying to procure parts from, leaving him with analog dreams and the ability to compute anything possible.
Is It Any Good?
What is charming about this movie is the innocence mixed with freedom that the late-1960s Disney movies portray. On one hand, Dexter is a kid with a dune buggy who attends college with his pals. On the other hand, a mobster runs a gambling ring and abducts Dexter, who is saved by his friends in the end. There is no doubt that Dexter will be safe and sound -- even though we never see his parents or his home. He is free to explore his surroundings, and even become the smartest man in the world, but the viewer never sees his home life, he's not burdened with student loans or difficult family issues.
This light tone is a welcome change to the darker contemporary fare for kids. It might leave parents a little nostalgic for freewheeling times. And make sure to get a load of the massive computer! It really drives home how much technological advancement we've seen in such a short time.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about what it would be like to be smarter than everyone else. How does fame affect Dexter? Does he begin to behave differently? What would you say to him if you were his friend to bring him back to reality?
- In theaters: December 31, 1969
- On DVD or streaming: January 14, 2003
- Cast: Cesar Romero, Joe Flynn, Kurt Russell
- Director: Robert Butler
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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