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Movie Review

See Leonard’s dog, Spot. See Spot talk. Talk, Spot, talk. See Spot put on a beanie and go to school. Learn Spot. See Spot try to change species.

From the television screen to the movie screen, Disney’s animated musical Teacher’s Pet follows Spot in his quest to become a (real) boy. Spot has already made a step toward becoming human by dressing up as a boy, calling himself Scott and attending school with his master, Leonard. But now he’s ready to shed his fur and get some skin. So when Spot sees Dr. Krank appear on Barry Anger (a Jerry Springer-like daytime talk show) to chat about his efforts to turn animals into humans, he’s ready to volunteer.

Of course, once Spot becomes human—actually a hairy, middle-aged man—he realizes his dream has some downsides. Among them, is the small detail that he can no longer be friends with Leonard and must live his own life!

Leonard, who madly misses his best friend, decides to turn himself into a dog so he can stay friends with Spot. Spot finds out, heads back to Dr. Krank’s office and stops his friend from making a huge mistake. In the chaos, Spot also turns himself back into a dog. Whew!

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Positive Elements

This movie honors the relationship between a boy and his dog. The two are best friends and only want the best for each other. Near the end, Leonard says if you love somebody you have to let them live their dreams, even if they’re different than yours. Spot makes a stand-up (pretend) boy, winning the school's attendance award—along with science, history and other academic medals.

When Leonard’s other pets (Jolly and Pretty Boy) learn that Dr. Krank’s experiments create mutants, not humans, they risk their lives to go to Florida and warn Spot. All the characters show loyalty to each other. As Leonard leaves Spot at home at the beginning of summer vacation, Spot tells him not to forget to wear sunscreen.

Spiritual Content

In several Pinocchio-like dreams, the Blue Fairy shows up to turn Spot into a boy and whacks him on the head. When several circumstances add up to allowing Spot to see Dr. Krank, he says it’s fate. (Interestingly, Dr. Krank lives on 666 Ako Way, although no spiritual reference is made about his ominous address.) When Leonard tells Dr. Krank his experiments go against nature, Krank says he’s a man of science. Later he adds, “Nature is dead; science is king!” At the end of the movie, Spot realizes it’s his destiny to be a dog.

Sexual Content

A soap opera on TV shows a man and woman kissing. Leonard’s mom flirts and quickly falls in love with Spot's middle-aged incarnation. At the end of a song, Leonard and his mom are left standing in their underwear (others are also seen in underwear). Spot pulls the clothes off some waitresses. A few women wear bikinis.

Violent Content

When Spot and Leonard learn no dogs are allowed in the principal’s RV, they (literally) break into pieces. Spot scratches up the RV as he tries to catch a ride to Florida. Pretty Boy kicks Jolly in the behind. Jolly crushes ants into goo. Dr. Krank straps a frog to his table and zaps it into a cow. Krank also swings an ax at Spot, traps Spot and Leonard in a steel cage and pulls off his own head (it doesn’t kill him—it’s a cartoon after all).

Ivan, Leonard’s classmate and Krank’s nephew, is tied upside in his bedroom (which he actually enjoys). When Jolly and Pretty Boy ride on top of a train, it goes so fast that it pulls back their skin and exposes their skulls. The machine that changes animals to humans blows up.

Crude or Profane Language

Pretty Boy and Dr. Krank are verbally harsh. Viewers will hear “stupid” and “wacko" more than a dozen times, “worthless” a handful of times, and “geez,” “gosh darn” and “butt” several times. Krank also (inappropriately) says, “Good Lord."

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Other Negative Elements

Leonard’s mom blows her nose into a handkerchief, which covers it with snot. The soaked rag ends up sliding down the chalkboard. A scene at the men’s bathroom at a gas station features a green-faced guy falling out of the door because of a bad odor. A fire hydrant backs away as Spot approaches. Men’s swimsuits fall down at the beach to show boxers. British soldiers fall out of bathroom stalls in their underwear. There are also references to dog behavior—such as sniffing themselves. When Spot is turned into a man, he lies to Leonard’s mom, saying he’s a teacher.

Conclusion

Disney’s Teacher’s Pet is another in a long line of award-winning cartoons that have made their way to the big screen. With 11 deftly worded songs and an all-star cast, Teacher’s Pet has the potential to be a winner. Especially considering its usage of Gary Baseman’s illustrations, which give the film a unique, edgy look. But after sitting through all 69 minutes, I’m left feeling puzzled about who is the intended audience. Listening to the families around me, I heard more laughter from the children during the pre-film trailers than during the entire feature.

Baseman’s artwork frequently appears in Time, Rolling Stone, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, The New Yorker and The Los Angeles Times—not exactly kids' publications. Maybe that's why he uses such a dark color pallet and includes crude images that may disturb young children. Numerous sight gags and jokes may entertain parents, but the negative language and imagery is a tot turnoff. Kids hear enough putdowns and verbal abuse in real life that parents should really be shielding them from it in their entertainment life.

While the selflessness of the main characters is admirable, too many negatives—including the whole premise of changing species—cloud the message. I won't be surprised at all if a lot of parents decide that Teacher’s Pet is one dog that’s best kept outdoors.

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Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

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Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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