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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Through discussion and example, this film shows young characters learning to be considerate and empathetic toward those they consider to be "different."
Positive Role Models
In spite of engaging in some bad behavior along the way -- getting into a fight with his best friend, stealing a truck, and yelling at his father -- Toby is essentially a nice kid who is going through growing pains.
Violence & Scariness
A beloved character dies, and the sorrow and grief of the family and friends when they are informed of this death is shown in heart wrenching detail. Mild peril, as a boy trying to cross a rickety ladder between two silos nearly falls when the ladder begins to break. Two best friends get into a physical altercation in a lake. Bullies kick at the trailer door where an overweight boy lives while calling him names; the two lead boys in the movie retaliate by throwing rocks at the bullies.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mild preteen kissing and flirtation.
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On occasion, preteens use words like "sucks," "son of a bitch," "fat-ass," and "dammit." When a pretty girl walks by and smiles at one of the main preteen characters, his friend tells him "She wants you."
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Products & Purchases
The Rock Star Games logo appears in one of the preteen's bedrooms through posters hanging on his walls.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The owner of the local diner frequently appears intoxicated, sipping from a flask while mumbling.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that When Zachary Beaver Came to Town is a 2003 coming-of-age movie that deals with some emotional topics that could be difficult for some kids. For instance, a beloved "big brother" figure in the movie dies in war, and the sorrow and grief of the family and friends when they are informed of his death is shown in heart wrenching detail. Also, a tween boy wrestles with the difficulties he has over the possibility that his mother might not come back after leaving their small Texas town in the hopes of becoming a famous country singer. And then there's Zachary Beaver, a morbidly obese boy who seems to be exploited as a freak show act by his legal guardian. There's also some profanity used by tweens, including like "sucks," "son of a bitch," "fat-ass," and "dammit." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Based on the award-winning book by Kimberly Willis Holt, WHEN ZACHARY BEAVER CAME TO TOWN comes across as a realistic representation of tweens coming of age. This has as much to do with the acting as it does the writing; Jonathan Lipnicki is believable as a tween angry with his parents, getting his first kiss, and trying to make sense of the bigger world out there. The life, pace, and small Texas town setting come through effectively, and the movie is unafraid to tackle topics such as death and parental abandonment.
That being said, there are times when it feels like the movie tries to do too much. So much is already happening with Toby and Cal, Zachary Beaver feels at times to be superfluous. So many lessons are being taught, there isn't time for the first lesson to sink in before the next one is tackled. But in a way, though, that's refreshing, as so many coming-of-age movies barely attempt even one lesson on anything. And while some lessons are more heavy-handed than others, the film's ultimate message of empathy should resonate with families mature enough to handle the film's more serious moments.
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.