A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has mature themes, such as the mistreatment of the Native American tribes by the miners, betting on dog fights, and the harshness of life in the mountains. There's a scene where wolves surround a camp and a character (off-screen) is killed while trying to protect his dog pack. A wolf is shot and crawls back to die in front of her young pup. A corpse is ejected from its coffin, characters treat an animal cruelly to make it fight, a bear chases a man but is scared away by a wolf, a character refers to the death of his parents. There's a shoot-out with no deaths but plenty of menace and a mining cave-in that threatens a character.
What's the story?
Jack Conroy (Ethan Hawke) is in Alaska to follow in his recently deceased father's footsteps in mining for gold in the breathtaking mountains surrounding Klondike. To get to his claim, however, he discovers he cannot survive alone and first follows then relies upon Alex Larson (Klaus Maria Brandauer), an experienced but gruff miner who knew Jack's father. Alex becomes a fatherly figure for Jack and introduces him to the frontier life of self-reliance and hard work. Meanwhile, White Fang (so named because of his white teeth, the result of being both dog and wolf) grows from puppy to adulthood, raised first by a Native American and then by immoral men who enter him in dog fights, until he finally finds a home with Jack.
Is it any good?
This is a beautifully shot, evocative adventure movie that rises above several two-dimensional "bad guy" characters, an out-of-place musical score, and the occasionally wooden dialogue. Jack London fans should forgive Disney for changing the main character of his story, White Fang, from the titular, mistreated wolf-dog to a recently orphaned young man. Jack pursues adventures that parallel those of the young pup, White Fang, until at last the two become fast friends.
This movie is not for younger kids due to violence, language and more mature themes; however, older kids will enjoy the adventure, and parents will appreciate the scenery and the performance given by Klaus Maria Brandauer.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the frontier life-style and how Jack finds a sense of place in a location that many would find inhospitable. The characters represent a wide spectrum of approaches from the men who steal to those who look out for one another. Families may want to talk about the character of Alex and why he does not seem friendly but how his commitment to keeping promises distinguishes him as someone Jack can rely upon. How are White Fang's and Jack's lives touched by other people and what impact does this have on how they act?
- In theaters: January 18, 1991
- On DVD or streaming: April 2, 2002
- Cast: Ethan Hawke, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Seymour Cassel
- Director: Randal Kleiser
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Wild Animals
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mature themes
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.