Johnny Tsunami

Common Sense Media says

Surfing, boarding, and strong lessons for kids.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Lots of strong messages about friendship, forgiveness, and finding common ground with people who are different from yourself. A father and son overcome their rocky relationship and learn to accept each other as they are, and the main character shares an enviable bond with his grandfather, who teaches him to be true to himself and face challenges head-on.

Violence & scariness

One teen fistfight ends in a slightly bloodied nose. There are plenty of dramatic spills on the snowy slopes and one fall down a treacherous mountainside, but no one suffers lasting effects.

Sexy stuff

There's a developing crush between the main character and a girl he likes, but it never gets physical.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's no sex, violence, or language to worry about in this fun made-for-TV movie. Instead, it's full of positive messages about friendship, perseverance, and overcoming differences. It also explores the pressures of divisive attitudes and how kids are affected by -- and can rise above -- the idea that it's best for people to keep to "their own kind." And even younger kids, who may miss out on some of the finer thematic points, will enjoy the action-packed surfing and snowboarding scenes.

Parents say

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Kids say

What's the story?

Adorable Brandon Baker stars as Hawaii native Johnny Kapahala, a well-adjusted teen whose passion for surfing was cultivated by his legendary wave-riding grandfather, known throughout the islands as Johnny Tsunami (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagama). The younger Johnny's dad decides to move the family to Vermont -- which turns out to be Hawaii's polar opposite in more ways than the obvious one. Johnny experiences extreme culture shock among his new group of prep-school peers, and he struggles to find a niche in his new home. With the help of new friend Sam (Lee Thompson Young), Johnny tries out the closest thing Vermont has to a surfboard and discovers that he's just as good at snowboarding as he was at riding the waves. But his new hobby causes quite a stir among his snobby classmates, who sneeringly remind him that in this neck of the woods, your scholastic status comes with a pre-determined set of interests, and boarding is out for him because, well, \"Academy kids ski, public-schoolers board.\" As he grapples with the repercussions of his actions -- not the least of which is his father's disappointment that he's not trying to fit in with his elitist peers -- Johnny must decide whether it's worth putting it all on the line to change history in his new hometown.

Is it any good?


JOHNNY TSUNAMI's premise is by no means unique: An unexpected life change tests a teen's determination and sense of self when he's forced to find common ground with a new set of peers in an unfamiliar place. But add a dusting of Disney magic to that timeworn scenario and you get an entertaining, heartwarming movie that's practically popping with positive messages for kids.

Brimming over with positive messages about perseverance, friendship, forgiveness, and finding common ground with people who seem different from you, Johnny Tsunami has lots to offer kids in addition to the action-packed surfing and snowboarding scenes. Johnny's emotional growth will speak volumes to tweens who've experienced similar identity-testing situations. There's so much to love about this movie that parents will find themselves drawn in by the same magic that intoxicates their kids.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about peer relationships. Kids: Do you think this movie does a good job showing how tweens and teens relate to each other? Have you had any similar experiences? What situations have you been in that compare to Johnny's? How did you handle them? Would you have done anything different if you were in his shoes? If so, what?

This review of Johnny Tsunami was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written byforgetregret93 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

oldie but goodie

I miss DC mocies like this. I loooove Johnny Tsunami!
Kid, 11 years old August 4, 2013


It is a fun movie but the kids run away but that's it
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Kid, 9 years old April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


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