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Where the Red Fern Grows
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the movie casts an unflinching gaze on the hard lives of its characters. Kids who watch this movie will see a boy take a fatal fall onto an axe and a dog die in a mountain lion attack. The film extols the value of hard work and loyalty to build character, and offers a realistic, unflinching look at backwoods life in the 1930s.
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What's the story?
In WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, young Billy Coleman works odd jobs so he can buy a pair of coonhounds. The dogs, Dan and Ann, don't disappoint. With training, they develop quite a reputation, and soon the raccoon pelts are piling high. They even tree the notorious "ghost coon," which wins Billy a two dollar bet with some hillbilly boys, one of whom falls on Billy's twin-bladed axe in a scuffle and dies. "Momma," Billy says, devastated, "you can stop worryin' now 'cause I ain't never gonna go huntin' again." But the Championship Coon Hunt is too great a temptation to pass up. Dan and Ann make the finals, but a fierce storm forces Billy to give up a sure win to find his injured Grandpa. More hard choices follow for Billy, each carrying him one step closer to manhood.
Is it any good?
If the performances seem a bit over-starched at times, they never fail to do their job. Like the acting, the songs (written by the Osmonds and performed with utmost sincerity by Andy Williams) are obviously of another era. Adults may find it amusing to hear Williams crooning about running free as the wind while Billy adoringly trains his pups, but they'll be touched in spite of themselves. It's just that kind of a movie.
Based on the Wilson Rawls novel, set in the Ozarks of the 1930s, the film is about a place where people are good to one another, during a time when hard work and compassion are rewarded. But there's a deeper layer as well, which slowly unravels to expose a boy struggling toward adulthood, grappling with the large issues of life and death and the heartaches that lie in between.
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