Vacation with Derek

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Vacation with Derek TV Poster Image
Sweet movie celebrates kids' ties in a blended family.

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

Educational Value

The movie intends to entertain rather than to educate, but the story does touch on some timely environmental issues and offers feel-good messages about family ties and community activism.

Positive Messages

The series has positive messages about the ties that bind members of blended families, as well as perseverance, standing up for a cause, and following your passion in life. The story also raises some issues relating to the environment and conservation that can be discussed. Potty humor is limited to a few instances of farting.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nora and George are loving parents to their combined five kids. Derek’s trouble-making ways are a menace to everyone around him for a good part of the story, but his behavior improves when he teams up with his siblings for a good cause. The kids’ grandmother eventually realizes how her judgmental ways have affected her relationship with her family and she makes amends with those she’s hurt. 

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

Teen romances are mostly innocent, culminating in kisses but nothing more.

Language

“Butt” is as strong as it gets. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie is based on the Canadian series Life with Derek, so newcomers to the characters will need some time to get up to speed on the story, which might be frustrating for kids. The movie centers on a blended family whose members don’t always get along, so expect some sibling bickering and troublesome behavior from Derek in particular. Happily the story has positive messages about effecting change and following your heart, in addition to its feel-good themes surrounding the bonds that unite families of all kinds. Mild bathroom humor and a few kisses among teens are the edgiest of the content, so there’s little for families to worry about here.

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What's the story?

VACATION WITH DEREK is a made-for-TV movie based on the Canadian comedy series Life with Derek. The movie picks up after the series’ end and centers on the McDonald-Venturi kids’ ill-fated trip to the country to visit their grandmother at her lakeside lodge. Felicia (Kate Trotter) is excited to see her biological granddaughters, Casey (Ashley Leggat) and Lizzie (Jordan Todosey), but the unexpected arrival of their three stepsiblings doesn’t sit well with her, and the appalling behavior of Derek (Michael Seater) and Edwin (Daniel Magder) doesn’t help matters at all. As if the family stress wasn’t enough, Felicia’s also facing pressure to sell her land to a greedy land developer, and when his true intentions come to light, the whole family must pull together to save the day.

Is it any good?

Vacation with Derek is a comedy with a lot of heart. Its family-centered themes are the biggest stand-outs, sending heartwarming messages about the transcending nature of love and unity in a blended family like the McDonald-Venturi household. Derek’s behavior is enough to make his family want to disown him at times, but when it really counts, he can champion a cause -- or a family member -- like no other.

Look a little deeper, though, and you’ll notice the story also includes positive notes about finding your life’s passion, following your heart, and standing up for what you believe is right. Romantic relationships are portrayed in a positive, responsible light, and there’s no iffy content to speak of throughout the story. If that’s not enough, there’s also the underlying environmental crisis surrounding Felicia’s land, which can instigate family discussions about related conservation issues in the real world.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about family relationships. In what ways is the McDonald-Venturi family similar to yours? How is it different? Can you relate to the sibling rivalry among the kids? Do you think your family would respond to a crisis in a manner similar to how they did? Why or why not?

  • What messages does this movie send about personal responsibility and following your heart? Which characters exemplified these characteristics in the story? What issues are important to you? How far would you go for a good cause?

  • In what ways does the story reflect current environmental issues? In what areas of the world are animal habitats most threatened? What is the trickle-down effect of species’ extinction? Of the eradication of plant life? How can we better balance the need for progress with the need to protect our natural resources?

TV details

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