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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Togo shifts back and forth between slow-moving but endearing scenes of life at home for an Alaskan dog-sledder and his wife, and fast-paced, life-threatening action scenes of the man and his dog team facing down death in icy conditions and blinding snowstorms. Kids might be interested if they're familiar with the story thanks to the animated Balto series. Older viewers might need to feel a special interest for the Alaskan setting, dog-sledding, or the true events of 1925 to be fully engaged by this film. The relationship between man and dog is endearing, especially the way the dog worms his way into the man's heart, scenes that elicit some mild swearing, including "damn" and "Satan."
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In 1925, the town of Nome, Alaska was threatened by a deadly outbreak of diphtheria until one man and his team of sled dogs, led by the unlikely lead dog TOGO, braved the icy elements to retrieve medicine from the nearest city. This is the true story that Togo is based on. Norwegian immigrant Leonhard Seppala (Willem Dafoe) raises sled dogs but he's perpetually annoyed by the persistence of one pesky pup the man considers ill-equipped for sledding because of his small size. Seppala locks Togo up and tries twice to give him away, but Togo tunnels, climbs, and jumps his way out every time. Finally, urged on by his wife Constance (Julianne Nicholson), Seppala gives the dog a chance and finds him to be the fastest and most determined of his breed. Togo not only wins Seppala's heart but he also helps his master win sled races and ultimately helps save the people of Nome.
Is it any good?
Togo has all the elements of a great tale for the big screen -- gorgeous settings, action enhanced by special effects, A-list star power, and an inspiring tale of humans and their handsome sled dogs. But the film juggles all these elements a little awkwardly, resulting in a solid and worthy but not entirely fulfilling movie set to premiere on the small screen.
Togo is another reminder that Dafoe can make just about any character feel authentic, though he's straddled here with a slightly distracting accent and some eccentric character moments, like when he shouts Shakespeare at his sled dogs. There are drastic shifts in tone between past and present -- Togo's puppyhood on Seppala's austere but pleasant homestead and breakneck adventure on their death-defying rescue mission. Scenes in between, when Seppala and Togo restore their physical and spiritual energy at dimly-lit Inuit-run rest houses, combine these moods and are among the most memorable in the movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the realities of life in an Alaskan outpost in the early 1900s, as seen in Togo. Why was it so hard to bring medicine to the town of Nome?
What do you know about dog-sledding, also called mushing? How could you learn more?
- On DVD or streaming: December 20, 2019
- Cast: Willem Dafoe, Julianne Nicholson, Christopher Heyerdahl
- Director: Ericson Core
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Rated PG for some peril, thematic elements and mild language
- Last updated: December 29, 2019
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