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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Anything is possible when you have hope and courage.
Positive Role Models
The friendly town of Nome, Alaska, includes both Inuit and White residents, who all support each other and work together. Leonhard Seppala and the other mushers who must brave treacherous conditions to deliver the antitoxin demonstrate courage, perseverance, and teamwork.
Violence & Scariness
A bear is slaughtered for revenge; the hunter is shown covered in blood, with knife in hand. A hunter uses a bow and arrow to kill an animal for food and its pelt. A musher explains in gruesome detail the consequences to sled dogs if they're forced to run when it's too hot or too cold -- and then takes them out in those conditions. A character shows he's in deep peril while out in a blizzard. Children die from a disease; others are shown suffering, near death.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple affectionately kisses over good news.
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Infrequent profanity includes "damn" and "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Brief smoking. A character takes a swig out of what appears to be beer.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Great Alaskan Race is a historical drama about the great serum run of 1925 that saved a village of Alaskan children from a deadly diphtheria outbreak. The story has been told before (Balto), but this movie focuses on the run's heroes: musher Leonhard Seppala (Brian Presley) and his dog, who covered more than half the terrain in the harshest conditions. Hunting with a bow and a gun is shown, and Seppala slaughters a bear and smears its blood on his face. Emotionally intense moments include the deaths of a young mother and children; remind modern-day kids who find that upsetting that diphtheria is now preventable with a vaccine. There's also historical smoking, brief drinking, and mild profanity ("damn," "hell"). The story clearly demonstrates how the serum run's unlikely success was the result of true teamwork, which was only possible because of the mushers' bravery and perseverance. The town of Nome is depicted as a harmonious, multicultural community where going to church isn't a requirement but is definitely the heart of the town. Faith elements are authentic to the era, including Native American spiritualism. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Presley's filmmaking debut lacks the sophistication to appeal to many adults, but the serum run of 1925 is a fantastic true story, and the movie has enough elements to keep kids captivated. One small but telling example: The actress who plays Seppala's daughter, Sigrid (Presley's own daughter, Emma), sports a front tooth that's half-grown back in. That's a small part of a kid's real life that has perhaps never made it the screen. And, of course, kids always connect to stories about amazing dogs, and movie canines don't get more heroic than Togo and his sled team. Plus, the relationship between "Sepp" and Sigrid is the driving force behind the mission's success, which might help kids feel a connection to a historical miracle. Other positive aspects of the story include the example of how leaders weighed the pros and cons of how to try to get the serum to the village.
That said, knowing that the film appears to be targeted at a family audience makes some of Presley's choices all the more confusing. It's unclear why it was so important for Sepp to kill a bear and drench himself in its blood (it doesn't match the description of the spirit animal believed to bring death). And it's a mystery why a musher would explain in gruesome detail the horrible death a husky will endure if run at certain temperatures ... just before choosing to run them in those same conditions. Puzzlingly, the identity of the narrator who speaks in first person is never explained, nor why he speaks only at the beginning of the film, never to be heard from or acknowledged again. Tweens likely won't notice those pesky details, although they'll definitely recognize that they watched a sad movie, even if the outcome is victorious.
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.