A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know The Million Dollar Duck is a G-rated 1971 Disney comedy aimed at entertaining young kids and promoting the value of family above wealth. Mayhem and danger are played mostly for comedy, but one scare to be prepared for involves a young boy perched on a high ladder that could send him plunging several stories. Dated stereotypes: Women are both hopeless with finances and relegated to kitchen work and housekeeping. Although the duck has no lines, it proves to be one of the movie's most attractive performers.
What's the story?
In THE MILLION DOLLAR DUCK, Albert (Dean Jones) is a researcher at a lab that tests for animal intelligence and learning ability. The duck he's in charge of fails the simplest test 50 times. Albert brings the duck home. His son (Lee Montgomery), longing for a puppy, bonds with the duck just when Albert accidentally learns the duck is not only female but lays eggs with solid gold yolks. Albert and his wife, who live in a big suburban house, are having severe money troubles and the duck seems to be the solution to their woes. When they learn that gold is regulated, egg-harvesting must become a secret project. Nevertheless, Albert's wife, Katie (Sandy Duncan), lets the secret out. Soon the federal government hears the news and steps into action to prevent a collapse of the world economy in addition to alienation of American international trade partners. Even then-President Nixon makes an appearance here in defense of American stability. Albert is arrested but the judge sees that he's learned his lesson about what's really valuable in life -- family -- and lets Albert and the duck, go.
Is it any good?
The movie's premise is that seemingly reasonable adults can do idiotic things, a notion that will probably amuse many kids who spend most of their days being corrected by adults. A cute, well-trained duck, a ditsy mom, and lots of almost-disastrous car chases also provide amusement, but The Million Dollar Duck shouldn't be confused with actual high-quality fare for that age group. Most of the action reflects Albert and Katie's misplacing or otherwise mismanaging both their child and his valuable pet duck. The duck has "flunked out" of the IQ testing lab, but there's no evidence that either Albert or Katie would fare any better on those intelligence tests than the duck.
On a side note, parents should be aware that in this 1971 movie, women are both hopeless with finances and relegated to kitchen work and housekeeping. Even at those jobs, poor Sandy Duncan as the mom-wife is stupidly bad at her duties, unable to figure out that neither garlic nor mustard belong in her applesauce recipe and convinced that, owing to the duck, the family will be able to "grow our own eggs." A good rule of thumb: any movie that cites a "duck handler" in the credits is sure to have at least a few good moments.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way the dad starts worrying more about the duck's well-being than the well-being of his own son. What is The Million Dollar Duck trying to tell us?
When the dad becomes obsessed with the duck, what kind of message does the dad send to his son?
In what ways does the movie seem dated? How would you remake it if you could?
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