The Pagemaster

  • Review Date: December 7, 2010
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 76 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Weak Macaulay Culkin fantasy with some cartoon violence.
  • Review Date: December 7, 2010
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 76 minutes





What parents need to know

Educational value

References and briefly introduces some classic literature.

Positive messages

Sometimes you have to fight to make a wish come true. Reach deep inside and seize the courage to confront fears. Books open the door to great adventure and knowledge.

Positive role models

Parents are portrayed as loving, concerned, and responsible. Very cautious boy is able to overcome his fearful nature and begin to enjoy the world around him.  A librarian is depicted as bizarre and less than helpful.

Violence & scariness

Lots of pratfalls and cartoon action; no one is seriously hurt. In the live-action sections, Dad falls from a tree house; 10-year-old Richard first crashes his bike and then slips on a hard floor, losing consciousness momentarily. Animated sequences contain scene after scene of cartoon peril: more characters falling repeatedly, a scary hound, Dr. Jekyl's transformation into Mr. Hyde, ghosts, a dragon, a threatening electrical storm, and more. Spooky music and effects accompany some of the above, heightening the suspense.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's lots of cartoon action in this film but no one gets seriously hurt. Characters fall from great heights and immediately come back to fall again just moments later. The hero and others are captured, then escape and immediately come back to get captured again. With a mix of animation and live-action, there are swashbuckling pirates, threatening sharks, scary hounds, unhinged authority figures, and a fire-breathing dragon with ghostly accomplices. Ominous music and spooky colors and sound effects heighten the suspense, but except for the youngest or most sensitive kids there's no real sense of jeopardy.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Timid and fearful Richard Tyler (Macaulay Culkin) can recite accident statistics for nearly everything that might be fun. When he's sent on an errand riding the bicycle that he's "enhanced" for safety, Richard gets caught in a storm and takes refuge in a strange library, with an even stranger librarian (Christopher Lloyd, replaying his oddball inventor from Back to the Future). A fall and bump on the head transport Richard into an animated world of books and fictional characters. He's desperate to find his way home. In his efforts, he is accompanied by three cartoon books: Fantasy (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg), Adventure (Patrick Stewart), and Horror (Frank Welker). Together the team gets into and out of lots of trouble until Richard finds the courage to make his own way back to the library's illusive "exit" sign.

Is it any good?


The concepts behind this movie are admirable: introducing a young boy who is fearful and ultimately finds the courage to participate in life; and showing kids the joy to be found in various genres of literature and books. The execution, however, fails to illuminate the messages in either a clear or imaginative way. Fictional characters are introduced in a smattering of short action scenes, which neither make them appealing nor give them any purpose other than to battle and do harm. The scenes that are supposed to inspire Richard's courage are so badly constructed that the audience never experiences the boy's move past his fears to save himself or his friends. Worst  of all, with the exception of one cleverly-drawn scene in which a painting deconstructs to wrap the library in brilliant color, the animation is unimaginative and ordinary at best.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the difference between real fear and imagined fear. What are you afraid of? Which fears do you have that you think might be exaggerated or not based on reality?

  • Richard meets an array of fictional characters in the library. What are some of your favorite fictional characters? Do you ever imagine that you're a part of their stories or even that you are that character?

  • What are some of the best things about having a good imagination? Can you identify the line that separates "pretending" and "lying"?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 23, 1994
DVD release date:May 28, 2002
Cast:Christopher Lloyd, Macaulay Culkin, Whoopi Goldberg
Directors:Joe Johnston, Maurice Hunt
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures
Run time:76 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of The Pagemaster was written by

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  • 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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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 of a 7 and 10 year old Written byWeedPuller July 19, 2013

Scared my sensitive girl, paradoxically

It's about an overly sensitive boy who learns to overcome his fears. But the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde segment, and the generally suspenseful build up to the "horror" has given my sensitive 7 year old a renewed fear of the dark. Fast-forwarding would have skipped 20 minutes of an 8 minute movie. It did introduce some classic book titles, but not really in a way that makes kids want to read them... more like really brief Cliff notes. The librarian was not "unbalanced" or particularly creepy, just wild-haired like you expect from Christopher Lloyd. The relationship between the dad and the boy was awkward and resolved unrealistically. As much as this is a good idea for a movie, I recommend against watching it. Sorry.
What other families should know
Educational value
Kid, 8 years old August 13, 2012

loved it

fantasy movie for kids some scary scenes and adventure


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