By Emily Ashby,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Surfing, boarding, and strong lessons for kids.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
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.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
There's a developing crush between the main character and a girl he likes, but it never gets physical.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
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.
Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
There aren't any parent reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.
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.
Talk to Your Kids 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?
- Premiere date: July 24, 1999
- Cast: Brandon Baker, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagama, Yuji Okumoto
- Network: Disney Channel
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship
- TV rating: TV-G
- Last updated: August 30, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Watch
Our Editors Recommend
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.See how we rate