A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is set in the Depression and depicts the bleakness of extreme poverty. Natty's mother is dead and her father leaves her because he found work across the country, so Natty must fend for herself. While there's considerable violence -- from a bloody dog fight to a man who tries to assault Natty when he offers to give her a ride -- the scarier moments aren't portrayed as graphically as they could be. Even when a train derails, Natty walks away with only a few scrapes.
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What's the story?
Despite having lost a mother as a child, Natty Gann (Meredith Salenger) lives happily with her union-thumping dad in a hotel. The family is content but poor. But when Natty's dad Sol (Ray Wise) gets the chance at a job across the country, he reluctantly takes it, promising to send for Natty as soon as he gets money. Left alone with only the mean landlady (Lainie Kazan) who plans to turn her in to social services, Natty decides to find her dad on her own. Natty doesn't know where in Washington state he is or have a dime in her pocket, but she joins the bands of tramps and orphaned kids trying to make it on their own in one of the roughest times in American history.
Is it any good?
In an odd way, THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN has more in common with Lassie Come Home and Homeward Bound than teenage coming-of-age movies. It's not about an inner journey, really. It's about a cross-country adventure and the strength and fun that Natty finds along the way.
There are definitely some tense, scary moments on her journey. Natty's saving grace is that she finds parent figures along the way, from a wolf who offers her his kill to Harry (John Cusack) who teaches her how to ride the rails and offers her his meager can of beans when she's hungry. Because of Harry's fatherly kindness to Natty, it's a little off-putting when a romance blooms between the two.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: September 27, 1985
- On DVD or streaming: May 21, 2002
- Cast: John Cusack, Lainie Kazan, Meredith Salenger, Scatman Crothers
- Director: Jeremy Kagan
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: August 31, 2021
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