The Rack Pack

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Rack Pack Movie Poster Image
Low-budget "Stand by Me" rip-off has some violence.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 81 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Tries to hearken back and champion the time when kids would go out and play and use their imaginations as opposed to staring at their phones. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

A tween boy mows lawns, accepting military badges as payment in lieu of cash. 


Bad guys tie up the father of the lead characters, using one of the bad guys' overused sweatpants as a gag for his mouth. A Civil War general kills two men by tossing dynamite into a mine. Bad guy pulls a knife on a group of kids who have trespassed into his shack. Fireworks and explosives are used in battle between good kids and two bad guys. Bullies get into dirt clod fight with main characters. Bad guy steals box filled with various objects just purchased in an auction from a little girl. A climactic scene involves a kid fighting with what he claims to be a "poop stick," a sharp stick used in guerilla warfare with feces on the sharp end. 


"Crap" used several times. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Talk of drinking margaritas. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Rack Pack is a 2018 adventure story in which a ragtag group of tweens discover a secret mine that two thieves are trying to use to break into a museum. Some violence occurs throughout: A Civil War general kills two men by tossing dynamite into the mine where they're hiding treasure. Besides getting into fights and pretending to be in the Army, kids use fireworks and "poop sticks" (no poop) to stop the bad guys. Bullies take on the lead characters in a dirt clod fight, but the fight abruptly ends when one of the bullies appears to be hit in the groin area. The main bad guy pulls a large knife on the lead characters when they go into his shack in the woods. This same bad guy steals a box of keepsakes from a very young girl whose mother had just purchased them in an auction, shoving her away. The lead characters and their father attend the funeral of their mother -- perhaps too intense for younger viewers experiencing something similar. There's talk of drinking margaritas, and the word "crap" is used.

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What's the story?

During the Civil War, a Confederate general hides a buried treasure of "Yankee gold." Decades later, the map is found in a box of keepsakes sold in an auction, where no-good Ted (C. Thomas Howell) steals it from a little girl. Meanwhile, a group of ragtag kids called THE RACK PACK who play Army in the woods happen upon Ted's shack and the map that leads to the treasure hidden somewhere in the old mining shafts below the woods. The kids begin exploring, day and night, arousing the suspicions of the Army father of some of the kids. Things take a darker turn when the father goes missing; Ted has taken him prisoner, then deputized a new group of bad guys to help him stop the kids and find the treasure. Now the kids, with the help of some adults, must find their father and prevent Ted from carrying out his wicked plans before it's too late. 

Is it any good?

There's an ineptitude to this movie that's almost impressive. While low-budget movies often get some slack in terms of the acting and production values, that slack is used up within the first 15 minutes of The Rack Pack: Continuity errors. Characters and scenes that don't really have a reason to exist. Rope traps that clearly don't succeed at going around the ankle of the bad guy, but still manage to pull him down and drag him away. And that's just the beginning. 

While the film is trying to evoke a similar spirit as, say, Stand by Me or The Goonies, there simply isn't enough competency going on here to attain the level of quality seen in those movies. Early on, some of the lead characters attend the funeral of their mother. They're crying and distraught, but when it's over, she's never discussed again or shown to have any effect on their future behavior. One of the tweens mows lawns for military badges in lieu of cash. One of his customers gives him a Purple Heart, something with so much obvious meaning and potential for future events, but instead it's just used as an anecdote. And there's supposed to be an air of nostalgia to this, when kids actually went outside and used their imaginations, but the parents use smartphones, and everything else is as present-day as can be. While no one doubts the sincerity in trying to tell this story, it's too confusing and amateurish to follow. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about coming-of-age movies. How does The Rack Pack compare to others you've seen?

  • Does low budget always mean low quality? What are some examples of low-budget movies that are entertaining?

  • How does this movie champion the idea of kids playing outside and using their imaginations rather than sitting at home staring at screens? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure

Themes & Topics

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