The Indian in the Cupboard

  • Review Date: March 2, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1997
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Classic, heartwarming fantasy will rivet kids.
  • Review Date: March 2, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1997
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn a little about Iroquois history and culture as well as the relationship between cowboys and Indians in the 1800s, plus a bit about WWI.

Positive messages

Little Bear helps Omri learn that friendship, responsibility, and sacrifice are part of being independent.

Positive role models

Omri is a gentle, compassionate boy with typical issues related to siblings and growing independence. He cares greatly for Little Bear and takes good care of him, eventually realizing that he needs to let go of him so he can return to his own life. Parents appear supportive, and Omri has a trusted friend, Patrick. Omri takes his brother's and father's possessions without asking, but he later makes amends.

Violence & scariness

Little Bear and Boone duel with guns and arrows on their first encounter. By accident, the cowboy Boone is shot in the chest with an arrow, though he later recovers. An older Indian dies from an apparent heart attack when brought to life by Omri's magic cupboard. Omri is accosted by a bigger boy who takes his money. Little Bear must go beneath the floorboards where a rat lives. The rat lunges, but is soon captured. Disturbed by his brothers' presence in his room, Omri lashes out by kicking their pet rat.

Sexy stuff

Brief glimpse of Motley Crue music video "Girls" with gyrating, scantily clad women. Boone makes a slightly lascivious comment. Discussion about Little Bear's need for a wife.

Language

"Hell," "damn," and "ass" occasionally used by adults.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Indian in the Cupboard is a tender and compelling fantasy about friendship and compassion that tweens will thoroughly enjoy. It does have some potentially upsetting moments: the 9-year-old boy grieves when he brings an aging figure to life who subsequently suffers a fatal coronary. Little Bear (the Indian in the title) explains that he is mourning his wife. Both Little Bear and Boone (a cowboy) explain to Omri that it is time for them to find wives and have children. Little Bear and Boone fight before becoming friends and one scene shows a violent massacre of Native Americans on TV, which causes Little Bear to shoot Boone with an arrow, though he later recovers.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In this film adaption of the popular book by Lynne Reid Banks, a young boy receives a magical cupboard and key that bring to life an 18th century Iroquois warrior who's all of three inches tall.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD comes to life with help from E.T. veteran Melissa Mathison's script and the technical wizardry of Industrial Light and Magic of Star Wars renown. (It's no coincidence that Omri briefly brings to life Darth Vader.) The illusion of the movie is magical, bringing together a wistful school boy and miniature warrior in delightful detail. The friendship between young Omri and the mature Little Bear is a journey of self-discovery and growth. The strength of the film is Little Bear, played by Litefoot, who teaches Omri about the pain of personal loss, and the responsibility that is part of growing up. "Boo Hoo" Boone, the crying cowboy, is a foil for the stoic Little Bear and provides comic relief reminiscent of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

Though a wonderful film for children, anyone who likes a good story will be satisfied. Viewers familiar with the novel may be disappointed that several key characters are left out of the screen version. But overall, The Indian in the Cupboard offers a fine example of a book adaptation.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what older kids have had to give up as they've grown up, such as their blankets and childish toys. How did Omri deal with the loss of his friends at the end of the film?

  • Families may want to discuss how they make their friends feel cherished every day. How did Little Bear express his love for Omri?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 22, 1997
DVD release date:August 22, 1997
Cast:Hal Scardino, Richard Jenkins, Steve Coogan
Director:Frank Oz
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Book characters, Friendship
Run time:97 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements

This review of The Indian in the Cupboard was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent Written byKristi2222 April 2, 2014
AGE
7
QUALITY
 

just a disturbing omission in reviews

This movie is very engaging for kids, and i agree with many other reviewers. I do find it surprising that none of the reviews seem to mention that one profane utterance comes from Omri, the main character. Foul language is not prolific in this film, and most of it comes out the mouths of the adults, which is somehow more palatable to me. But when Omri's mother enters to ask how he's feeling, I for one find it disturbing that a 9 yr old would say "I'm feeling pretty **** good!" What is even more appalling is his mother's reaction. Or rather, her LACK of reaction. She responds to it as though it is typical and acceptable language in her house, and the fact that her young son utters it does not even make her flinch. When we showed it in our class, students, ALL of them, gasped. I must say, I was embarrassed, for I'm sure parents got an earful about it at home. The movie is a good one, but perhaps more thought into who is uttering the profanity should be included in our reviews here.
Adult Written bydonnyrob April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 
Parent of a 5, 8, and 10 year old Written byccbarts September 13, 2009
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Heartwarming Story

Great story the whole family will love. Brief flash at sexy music video unnecessary. Other than that minor language and violence.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing

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