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WHAT’S FIVE FEET APART ABOUT?     

She has Cystic Fibrosis. So does he. That’s why they have to stay five feet apart.  What happens if they’re three or four feet apart?  Yes, this is another one of those sick-teens-in-love movies we’ve seen many times before and is based on the book by Rachael Lippincott.

IS IT ANY GOOD?   B-

If you’ve seen the trailer, you have pretty much seen the entire movie.  If you haven’t read the book, you obviously won’t miss any differences between it and the film, but you may wonder which is better.  The book spends more time developing the characters so that you actually like them; whereas, the movie kind of portrays the two main characters as snarky, foul-mouthed, and kind of jerky.  Stella is super hostile to Will when they first meet for some reason.  She’s a complete control freak and bosses people around.  If being around each other was so dangerous, they could have easily had an online relationship and not put each other at such a dangerous risk, right?  Well, maybe but that wouldn’t make for a very compelling movie.

You’ll learn some medical facts about Cystic Fibrosis in the film.  In fact, the actors and director worked with Claire’s Place Foundation so that they could ensure they were depicting Cystic Fibrosis accurately. There’s a lot of talk of mucous and you see Stella spit massive chunks out of her mouth.  Ick.

Haley Lu Richardson, Cole Sprouse, and Moises Arias all did a great job as the sick teenagers.  Unfortunately, the movie is so predictable that you won’t shed a tear, unless you let yourself get carried away with the story.  Teenage girls will probably need to bring tissues.  If you do cry, you can quickly run out of the theater to get some tissues in the restroom since there aren’t any end-credit scenes.

The sick teens do something dangerous to their health and one of them rationalizes it by saying, “I’m sorry, but it was fun!” as if that makes it ok.  Having fun in life is great and we should definitely look for joy in everyday moments, but having fun needs to be in balance with what’s truly important.  As a mother, I often hear myself saying, “Have fun!” to my kids as they head out the door.  I finally realized that’s not the message I want them to remember as being the top priority.  Now, I try to say things like “Make the world a better place!” or “Go learn something amazing!” or the classic “mother” advice, “Make good choices!”

IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?    (PG-13)

  • Some teenage girls are looking at clothes and one of them asks, “Too trampy or not trampy enough?”
  • There is talk of “doing it”, “foreplay”, and “using protection.”  Stella and Will talk about whether or not they like sex and where they want to have it.
  • Lots of texting, so young kids who can’t read won’t know what’s being said.
  • Some profanity, including 2 F-bombs (both times by Haley Lu Richardson).
  • Name calling.
  • Talk of a teenage gay couple.
  • A teenager goes skydiving.
  • The parents are never around their sick kids in the hospital until the end of the film.
  • Talk of a girl who dies while cliff-diving.
  • A teen boy and girl undress in front of each other down to their underwear.
  • Teenagers drink alcohol.

ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?       

The importance of human touch is the biggest theme.  We need it from the ones we love in order to survive and thrive.  A hug can work miracles, right?  The sick teenagers in this movie definitely need a miracle, yet can’t receive hugs due to their illness.  

Valuing life and every moment we’re given is also a strong theme.  Stella, played by Haley Lu Richardson, tells us, “Life is too short to waste a second.” The gospel of Jesus Christ reminds us that this life is precious and important.  Stella keeps a “to-do” list of sorts and on it, she wrote “Afterlife…?”  She and Will have a short conversation about what they think happens when we die. Considering death confronted them each day of their life, it’s surprising and a bit disappointing how short that conversation was in the film.  Numerous are the scriptures that assure us that we will live again after we die (John 20:9-10). Jesus Christ died and rose again, giving us promise that we will do the same (Mark 10:34).  What a comfort it is to know that there is life after we depart our mortal experience. We WILL see our loved ones again.  Stella refused to accept the idea that nothing is what awaits us.  I agree.   In the story, a truly unselfish sacrifice is made.  As Christians, we know all about that and will be touched by that part of the movie.

WHAT’S A DOG’S WAY HOME ABOUT?     

A Dog’s Way Home is based on the heartwarming novel by W. Bruce Cameron. There were quite a few things that were left out of the movie, but if you haven’t read the book, you certainly won’t miss them.  This feel-good drama is NOT a sequel to A Dog’s Purpose.  There actually will be a sequel to that film, but it hasn’t come out yet.

It’s not a unique story or movie, although it’s charming and family-friendly.  A guy’s dog gets lost and has many adventures while trying to return home.  We’ve seen this film before in the 1993 Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey and its sequel Homeward Bound Ii: Lost In San Francisco.  What makes this particular home-bound adventure different is the definition of families you see in the film.  If you’re a dog lover, you’ll probably cry.  If not, you’ll at least get a lump in your throat.

This movie hit theaters back in January, although very few people saw it.  It will now be available for streaming and on DVD on April 9, 2019.

IS IT ANY GOOD?   B+

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve pretty much seen the movie.  Bella the dog is adorable. People who are afraid of pit bulls by reputation will probably look at them differently now.  It’s always fascinating to see how they can get animals to do the things they do in movies.  The dog’s commentary on things is cute. Bella is voiced by the talented Bryce Dallas Howard. Her famous father, Ron Howard, actually has a tiny cameo performance.  You’ll miss him if you blink.  He’s in the scene towards the end of the movie where Bella is trying to cross a freeway and people stop to get out of their cars to catch her and help her.  If you love dogs, you’ll be happy to know that the dog that played the adult version of Bella was a rescue dog that was found living in a junkyard in Tennessee.

The cast includes Ashley Judd and Barry Watson, as well as two Academy nominees: Edward James Olmos and Wes Studi, although they play very small roles.

You get to see some beautiful landscapes. The story is supposed to take place in Colorado, but it was actually filmed in British Columbia, Canada.  The wolves in the movie are called coy-wolves, which is a wolf-coyote hybrid.  The dog, cougar, and these coy-wolves definitely looked like they were CGI many times.

There is an aspect of the movie which might really drive you nuts.  When Lucas brings home Bella, his mom reminds him that their lease doesn’t allow pets.  They both completely ignore that fact.  How is that fair to the owner of the house or legal or ethical?  The movie takes place in Denver, where pit bulls are illegal, so Lucas and his mom were also breaking a city ordinance by keeping Bella.  What message does that send to our kids?  Yes, rescuing an animal is awesome, but breaking the law is not.

 IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?    (PG)

  • No profanity.
  • There is a gay couple.
  • A homeless man dies.
  • There are some sad moments.
  • You might have to explain to your kids what poachers are.
  • You might also have to talk to your kids about the Veterans Administration, why returning soldiers might need therapy and why they can be so sad.

ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?       

There is a portrayal of pet-therapy for veterans, which has been growing in recent years.  Unless you’re allergic, pets can be a wonderful addition to your family.  You need to be able to provide them with a safe home and take care of their needs.  Children who watch this movie will want a pet dog, so you need to talk to them about all of the responsibilities that are required to own a pet.  The film encourages kindness to animals and spotlights the love between a pet and its owner. Several comments in the movie talk about the breed discrimination that exists against pit bulls.  One girl even calls it racism for dogs.  Bella the dog demonstrates persistence and the importance of family.

WHAT’S WONDER PARK ABOUT?     

Wonder Park is an animated film about a young girl who is encouraged to be very creative.  She and her mother build an imaginary theme park until her mother becomes ill and has to leave for unexplained medical help.  The girl falls into depression until something magical happens to her theme park.

IS IT ANY GOOD?   C

Wonder or blunder?  Well, it’s very creative and colorful, but an annoying mess.  I couldn’t wait for it to end.  The original director was fired towards the end of the movie, which explains a lot.   I understand what the film was trying to do. It had great intentions. It just didn’t do it well.

The sickness and sadness have about a five-second, very subtle montage.  It’s understandable that they didn’t want to dwell on it, but if children blink, they’ll miss it and not understand what’s happening.  The little girl wallows in grief, but has some personal growth.  It seems like an unsuccessful attempt at imitating the successful movie Inside Out.  

On the positive side, the cast is delightful with the voice talents of Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Sofia Mali, John Oliver, Mila Kunis, Kenan Thompson, Tom Baker, Ken Hudson Campbell, and Ken Jeong.  Unfortunately, most of the characters are one-dimensional.

There is some whimsical fun and a couple of short musical moments.

There aren’t any scary villains, but instead, a bunch of cute little monkeys called Chimpan-zombies.  Luckily, they don’t look like zombies.  Why isn’t the movie called “Wonderland”, since that’s what it’s called IN the movie?

IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?    (PG-13)

If your kids like roller coasters, they’ll really like the Rube Goldberg constructions and action in the film.

It’s wonderful to see the mom play with her daughter and encourage her creativity.  June (the little girl) does some really dangerous things at the beginning of the movie that causes destruction to her neighbors’ property, but she doesn’t get punished by her parents at all.

The characters use a lot of big words that young children won’t understand.  No profanity, although there are made-up words to sound like characters are swearing.  One of the creatures says, “What the chuck?” as if that’s supposed to be funny. Come on people, if you’re going to create a kid’s movie, don’t encourage our kids to imitate bad behavior or language.  Not funny.  Another creature says, “Such a woman…those ‘Come hither tusks.”  Not cool.  Another creature slaps another creature really hard.  Many times.  Stop it already.

 A kid mentions he can’t start his day without drinking coffee.

ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?       

The film addresses the painful subject of having a very sick parent and the uncertainty of the outcome, especially how it affects a worried child.  Other themes include:

  • Creativity and imagination
  • “You keep that little light inside you shining bright.” – Mom (Jennifer Garner)
  • “You are the wonder.” – Mom
  • Fighting against the darkness (loneliness and sadness)
  • Don’t be so afraid of something that you lose yourself.
  • “Maybe the darkness will always be there. Look at the light that surrounds us.” – June (Sofia Mali)

Movie Review Mom:  Trina Boice teaches for BYU-I and is an author of 29 books.  You can read more of her reviews at www.MovieReviewMom.com  Because she is a popular speaker in China and loves to travel around the world, she created www.EmptyNestTravelHacker.com  You can see all of her books and win prizes at www.TrinasBooks.com  You can also find @TrinaBoice on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  You can hear her podcast “Daily Inspirational Quotes Hosted by Trina” on Amazon Echo devices and Volley FM.