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The Legend of Johnny Lingo
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's some ugly bullying in this earnest family movie. Two kids are teased ruthlessly, called names, and laughed at. In addition, one very mean, perpetually intoxicated father verbally attacks a girl every time they're together. There are also a few mildly scary moments: A fire nearly takes the life of a baby, and a leading character is held for ransom with threats made on his life. A brief sequence shows a leading character in failing health, dying off camera, and mourned by his surrogate son.
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What's the story?
More than 100 years ago, an infant boy washes to shore on Malio, a beautiful South Sea island. Mischievous and exuberant, the young Tama (Tausana Simei-Barton) is treated badly and passed from tribal family to tribal family, bonding only with another outcast, Mahana (Fokikovi Soakimi), a girl his own age. Seeing no future on Malio, Tama sets off on a homemade raft, hoping to find a better life and promising Mahana that he'll return for her. His journey takes him to a more progressive island, where he's raised, taught, and nourished by the wealthy and famous Johnny Lingo (George Henare), the most successful trader in the South Pacific. Years later Tama, now the charming and educated heir apparent to Johnny Lingo, returns to Malio to keep his promise to Mahana. What he finds is a homecoming both surprising and improbable.
Is it any good?
Whatever appeal there is in this well-meaning film comes from the extraordinary beauty of its setting; the filmmakers make the most of it. Otherwise, it's a sweet story, but it doesn't have any depth or originality that would really engage a family audience. The characters are one-dimensional, and with very few exceptions, the acting is unprofessional and clumsy. Positive messages aplenty are delivered, but without subtlety or grace, they simply sound trite and preachy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the bullying and teasing in this movie. How did Tama and Mahana deal with it? What are some things you can do if you or a friend is bullied or teased? How do you know if you are the bully?
Mahana is very different from the other girls in her tribe. How does she foreshadow the role of girls and women in today's world?
What was the "legend" of Johnny Lingo? How does he measure up to other legends you've heard or read about?
Cultures change over the years. Is there anything about life in the islands in this movie that you wish was still a part of our culture? What do you think has changed for the better?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.