A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Many viewers will consider movie's overall message -- that a journey to faith is a worthwhile endeavor -- to be overwhelmingly positive. But messages that may have seemed correct in 1678 might ring odd today. A scene with scary characters associated with the law seems to be telling viewers to be afraid of the law and those who uphold it. A man abandons his wife and children to make his journey, which may confuse or upset young kids. Other messages are more positive: idea that contentment, love are more valuable in times of hardship because it's then that they're really needed.
Positive Role Models
Women and people of color are mostly absent. One character, Hopeful, appears to be a man of African descent, is a positive and sympathetic character. But characterization of the villains may strike some viewers as questionable, with many given darker skin, hair, eyes (heroes are mostly fair, with light eyes). Such visuals often signal whether character is good or bad, since it can be hard to tell from their actions.
Violence & Scariness
Frequent violent/scary scenes, including multiple battles with dragon-like winged creatures that fly, spit fire, gnash giant teeth. Christian is chased by fierce lions, nearly drowns in mud, yelling "Help me!" while he disappears beneath surface (someone soon pulls him out). Two giants capture Christian and his traveling companion; they keep them in a cage and starve them for days, hoping to convince them to "do themselves in." Piles of skeletons all around the cage. A character is sentenced to death, burned at stake; viewers see edge of flames as Christian yells out his name.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Women at a carnival wink and leer at Christian flirtatiously.
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No cursing, but lots of insulting language, including "mad man," "lunatic," "fool," "liar," and "stupid-headed man." One hectoring wife is particularly cross with her husband, calling him a "good for nothing oaf" and "blithering fool."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Earthly temptations are briefly symbolized in the form of a carnival stall full of bottles with a sign reading "Liquor."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Pilgrim's Progress is an animated adaptation of the same-named 1678 book, which is an allegory of Christian faith. The story uses a man's journey to a far-off "celestial kingdom" to represent the journey from sin to salvation. Some viewers will consider the movie's ultimate message -- that any journey ending in faith is worthwhile -- to be positive enough that they can ignore the less-positive themes and examples: chiefly that main character Christian (voiced by Ben Price) abandons his wife and family to make his journey. Other scenes imply that laws are anti-Christian (the faith, not the character), which may cause some consternation for rule-abiding parents. Several scenes are violent enough to scare young or sensitive viewers. Christian is chased by fierce lions and dragon-like creatures who spit flame; in one extended battle, Christian is hurled around, set on fire, and crushed against the ground. A man is sentenced to death and burned at the stake (viewers see the edge of the flames), and two men are captured by giants and urged to suicide; skeletons are strewn around their cage. There's one scene with flirting and one with liquor bottles symbolizing earthly temptations. Characters use insults like "lunatic," "fool," and "good-for-nothing oaf," but there's no swearing. Women and people of color are in short supply, and villains often have dark complexions, hair, and/or eyes, while heroes have light eyes and hair. Parents may have to explain some of the movie's biblical/Christian references, but children won't have trouble picking up the story's messages about faith and a steadfast journey toward it. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Transforming 17th-century literature into modern animated family fare isn't easy, so viewers' opinions of this movie are likely to vary according to how much they know and enjoy Bunyan's book. Those who've read the Christian classic are rather thin on the ground these days, but plenty know at least the story's outline. Children, who are most likely to have encountered The Pilgrim's Progress only in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series (in which the book was one of the very few permitted for Sunday reading, along with the Bible) may need help with the main concept: that this is a metaphorical hero's journey, in which everything real and literal is actually a stand-in for something else. Without that understanding, the film basically follows a guy on a long walk who stops to have lots of hard-to-follow conversations -- not a particularly juicy setup for a movie, particularly one aiming to be a sort of Christian adventure story.
The movie works best when Christian is facing down some of the strange characters he meets on his journey: a menacing stone mountain that stands for the Rule of Law; a pair of bickering giants intent on convincing Christian and traveling companion Hopeful to kill themselves; the dragon-like Apollyon, which morphs between a winged creature and the honcho of Christian's hometown. Most of the movie's straight-on action/battle scenes involve the Apollyon, including one conflict that takes up a full five minutes. At least during these moments, parents won't have to whisper explanations of metaphorical biblical concepts as the "straight and narrow path" or the "place of deliverance." Yet when things do get livelier in this movie, they're often too mature for little kids, as when one of Christian's friends is summarily executed. Kids may also be confused by Christian abandoning his family early in the movie ("You mean this dad up and left because of something he read in a book? And that's a good thing?"). (Spoiler alert!) At the movie's end, Christiana learns that her husband is still alive, which the movie presents as a joyous moment -- yet she's still stuck alone in a tiny, doomed village with presumably no way to support her family. Mr. Bunyan, is a rewrite possible?
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.