Parents' Guide to

Where the Red Fern Grows (2003)

By Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Book-based drama is emotionally intense, with mild scares.

Movie PG 2003 86 minutes
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Kids say (4):

This sincere and squeaky-clean version of a beloved classic that's still on many school reading lists is enjoyable but may fall short for those who've read and loved the book first. The 2003 version of Where the Red Fern Grows has lots of positive messages about the value of hard work and perseverance, but leaves out some of the stronger content from the book, both positive and negative. This means that the stronger emphasis on religious and character messages are weakened because there's no contrast.

Performances are OK but make it hard to connect emotionally with Billy, his family, and even his dogs. It feels more like you're watching types of people, as admirable as they may be, instead of getting to know real, specific characters. It's an OK choice for family movie night, especially if you're ready to offer reassurance to little ones when people and animals are in danger. But this film version falls far short of the original book; consider reading it aloud, or together, to really experience the full emotional impact of this American classic.

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