Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal TV Poster Image
Interactive story has pitfalls, but caper still entertains.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Educational Value

Story exposes viewers to several places of historic or cultural significance, but it touches on them only briefly, gives limited background into their history.

Positive Messages

A mixed bag. To do what's right in helping her friends, Carmen is forced to do wrong by stealing for V.I.L.E. operatives. Story's interactive format also encourages viewers to "help" her make that kind of difficult decision at several junctures. Even so, it's obvious that Carmen's intentions are good while those of the V.I.L.E. villains are not, so it's easy for kids to differentiate between right and wrong as it relates to the characters themselves.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Carmen is bothered by being forced to steal in order to save her friends, but she makes their safety the top priority. The V.I.L.E. villains who force her hand do so out of selfish and silly desires.

Violence & Scariness

Villains take and hold hostage Carmen's friends. Several scenes show the process and effect of wiping their memories with a headset.

Sexy Stuff

One instance of name-calling using "slime balls."


This episode is part of the Carmen Sandiego series.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal is an interactive special in which viewers help choose the direction of the story at key moments by clicking on one of two choices on the screen. It is an engaging feature that encourages kids to follow the plot closely, but some of the plot developments double back to the same juncture in the story, and a holographic character urges the watcher to reconsider the previous choice, which contradicts the sense that the viewers are in charge. The V.I.L.E. villains are a mostly comical bunch, but they do use kidnapped victims to force Carmen's hand, and she steals at their demand. Parents can follow up to help explain Carmen's actions and the reasons behind them to put them in perspective kids will understand. As in the TV series, this story introduces viewers to a handful of geographical locations of historical significance.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7-year-old Written byjenfreeman75 July 2, 2020
Teen, 14 years old Written byCanDAmeChibi February 15, 2021

Don't watch this if you like Carmen Sandiego

Though this features the same characters as in the Netflix original show Carmen Sandiego, this interactive game is a little unnecessary. Most of the characters... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bylauh40 June 4, 2020

Great fun

It is a show that is fun to watch and interact

What's the story?

In CARMEN SANDIEGO: TO STEAL OR NOT TO STEAL, the world's best thief faces a dilemma when her former V.I.L.E. instructors kidnap her friends Zack (Michael Hawley) and Ivy (Abby Trott) and force Carmen (Gina Rodriguez) to steal artifacts to secure their release. But deciding whether or not to do their bidding is just the first of many tough choices Carmen faces in her high-stakes quest to save her friends, and she needs viewers' help to make those decisions at critical points in the story. As her fates change with each selection, viewers are taken on a globe-trotting escapade with stops in several famous locations.

Is it any good?

This choose-your-own-adventure-style special puts the audience in the driver's seat ... in a sense. Carmen pauses at various junctures in the story to wait for direction from the viewer, and if no selection is made before the scene times out, a default pick proceeds. But several of the options play out their respective scenarios briefly before redirecting the viewer back to that same moment in the story to make the opposite choice, which feels disappointing and a bit anticlimactic. 

Carmen herself continues to be a conundrum of sorts: a thief who does the wrong thing for the right reasons. In Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal, the confusion is even greater as she's stealing for the bad guys -- instead of in an effort to thwart their schemes -- albeit for the good cause of saving her friends. But regardless of her motivation, her capers consistently entertain young fans and expose them to simple geographical concepts and specific places of historical importance.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether doing the wrong thing can ever be justified by the circumstances. Does Carmen make the right choice to do illegal things to save her friends in Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal? Would you do the same in her shoes?

  • What examples of resilience and perseverance stand out in this story? Why are those qualities important to a hero or heroine? In what ways do you see these strengths displayed in people you encounter in your daily life?

  • Does this movie's interactive feature work well? Were your choices ever overridden by the episode bringing you back to the same spot and asking you to pick another way? What story direction would you like to have seen explored more fully?

TV details

For kids who love geography

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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