WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

PLUGGED IN RATING

Watch This Review

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

Movie Review

When the world unleashes the dogs of war, it's nice to have a practical pooch by your side.

It's not that Stubby wanted to go to war; rare is the dog that is motivated by ideological fervor. He didn't sign up because of the Army's steady pay or college tuition program.

Nope, it was all about the cookie.

It's 1917, and the United States is prepping to enter World War I (or, since World War II hadn't been invented yet, simply the "war to end all wars"). The people of New Haven, Connecticut, line the streets to watch some of America's finest young soldiers march in their Army greens as they make their way to a training base at Yale University.

Stubby—at this point, just a nameless stray scrounging for scraps—never thought about a military career before. But when Pvt. Robert Conroy tosses the dog a cookie, soon-to-be Stubby is sold. He follows Robert and his platoon through the streets and to the base, determined to hang out with his new best friend.

But the Army, even in wartime, has certain standards for its soldiers. The brass likes its men in uniform to be … well, men. They should walk on two feet. Weigh more than 20 pounds. Salute. That sort of thing. The Army wants nothing to do with a stray dog, no matter how cute it is.

Still, Stubby has also the sort of never-say-die attitude that the Army likes. When guards block the dog's way into camp, the plucky pooch digs under the fence. When a sergeant spots him, Stubby does his best to follow the drills. And when the colonel stops by to inspect the troops, Stubby salutes—thanks to a little help and training from his adoptive owner, Robert.

When Robert and his pals prepare to sail for battle-ravaged France, Robert leaves Stubby (who now sports a smart collar with his name on it) in the care of the camp's cook. But Stubby isn't about to let Robert leave him. The terrier unties himself, hops on a train and sneaks aboard the U.S.S. Minnesota, literally sniffing out Robert's bunk.

The ship is already cutting through the Atlantic Ocean by that time. If Stubby's discovered, he'll surely be thrown overboard. So Robert will either have to hide him for a long, long ocean voyage … or hope that Stubby's a very strong swimmer.

But you can't hide a dog for long on a ship full of troops. Barely any time passes before the commanding general spots the stowaway terrier. Is Stubby cowed by this high-ranking official? Intimidated by the general's gleaming, gold stars on his shoulders? Nope. He just picks up the general's riding crop and hands it—or, rather, mouths it—to him.

The general smiles. "Make sure he receives some … dog tags," he says.

Yep, Stubby is on his way to war. If only he could charm the German soldiers so effectively.

Positive Elements

Once at the front, Stubby proves to be more than just a military mascot. He doesn't play dead: He saves lives.

If the trench is rocked by explosions, Stubby rushes in to dig out the wounded. When someone gets shot, he barks until help arrives and serves as an unofficial morale booster. Stubby clears the trench of mice. Perhaps most helpfully, he can hear or sense some attacks—especially chemical attacks—before his human compatriots can, giving them ample warning to prepare. At one juncture, Stubby not only "suggests" that the soldiers put on their gas masks (in his little doggie way), but he dashes into a local village to warn the townspeople, too.

Robert proves to be a conscientious owner, caring for Stubby as best as he can and helping his canine friend pull his weight. The two form a symbiotic relationship, and the movie suggests that when Robert's on the edge of death, Stubby's companionship helps move him into a healthier place. And when eventually Stubby receives an honorary promotion to sergeant, Robert shows no ill will that his own dog now outranks him.

And for all the movie's canine charms, Sgt. Stubby also serves as a bit of an animated history lesson. Much of what we see on screen actually happened, and the movie gives audiences a glimpse (albeit a sanitized and bloodless one) of what America, France and the Western Front looked like during this critical, terrible time.

Spiritual Content

When Robert and other soldiers prepare to ship out, the colonel addresses them, asking that they "pray that we will be home very soon." (Robert's sister, Margaret, who narrates much of the movie, echoes that same sentiment almost word for word.) The colonel concludes his address by saying, "God bless us all, and God bless the United States of America."

We see several churches, both intact and bombed out, throughout the movie. When a soldier dies, his compatriots gather to mourn and bow their heads as sun streams through the clouds—a scene that feels quite reverent and spiritual, despite its lack of overt religious content.

Sexual Content

Two soldiers spend time with giggling French women in Paris. We see a soldier in a bathtub.

Violent Content

Most of Sgt. Stubby takes place, obviously, during one of history's cruelest conflicts. We never see any blood. And the "violence," such as it is, stays within the bounds of the movie's PG rating. But it never makes war out to be a lark.

During training, soldiers are exposed to tear gas: As they retch and cough after their exposure, the sergeant in charge tells them that the poison gasses waiting for them in Paris are much, much worse. We later see a fearsome gas attack (the missiles containing the poison are marked with an intimidating skull-and-crossbones), and German soldiers are almost always shown wearing dehumanizing gas masks. (The Allied soldiers have their own masks, of course, which Stubby doesn't like one bit.)

Soldiers on both sides shoot and get shot at. Bombs burst in the air and on the ground, too, sometimes sending dirt and debris flying. Stubby gets wounded in one such explosion: The wound itself is not obvious, but we're told it's pretty serious. (We later see the dog hobbling around with a bandaged leg.) Several other soldiers are wounded, and we glimpse them some of them in bandages later as well.

One major character dies offscreen in a meaningless battle just hours before a cease fire was set to go into effect. (Margaret, the narrator, expresses bewilderment that so many soldiers would lose their lives in such an apparently senseless engagement.)

Cooks and shop owners throw things at Stubby. Stubby kills a rabbit (we see dead animal in the dog's mouth), chases fearful mice and bites the rear of a German spy.

Crude or Profane Language

No profanity. Mild interjections include two uses of "darn." One person is called a "moron." Soldiers, both allies and enemies, are demeaned by those who use pejorative ethnic phrases such as "frog"(for the French) and "boche" (for the Germans).

Drug and Alcohol Content

Robert's close French friend, Gaston, regularly chews on a pipe—but he admits that he hasn't had any tobacco for it for a long time. He also offers wine to Robert by way of celebration. Robert declines, telling Gaston that he doesn't drink wine and, besides, it's against the rules. "Rules? What rules?" Gaston counters. "This is war!" He explains that the French typically transition straight from their mother's milk to the "fruit of the vine." We see other folks raise glasses of wine in a toast.

Other Negative Elements

During drilling, the sergeant points to Stubby as a good role model for the rest of the soldiers … just as Stubby is licking his private parts.

The movie gives us a glimpse at some of the initial unease, even hostility, between the veteran French soldiers (who'd been already fighting the war for years) and the wet-behind-the-ears Yankees who are just showing up.

Robert, Olsen and Schroeder consider breaking Army regulations to keep Stubby hidden, but that plan goes awry quickly. Soldiers also play poker.

Conclusion

The exploits of Sgt. Stubby, the dog, feel a lot like those of Lassie or Rin Tin Tin or any number of fictional canines who fearlessly race into the thick of battle or rescue kids from wells or teach their owners long division. Lots of people love stories about too-good-to-be-true pooches.

But here's the thing about Stubby: He was as real as they come.

He really did learn to salute. He really did catch a German spy by biting him on the bum (which earned Stubby his honorary promotion to sergeant). He really did rush out into no-man's land—the desolate area between trenches—to find wounded soldiers. He participated in 17 battles over 18 months and trotted out of the conflict as a decorated vet. He lived until 1926, and when he finally found his place in the eternal kennel, his earthly remains were sent to the Smithsonian.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero seems about as well-meaning as the dog itself—if not quite as daring or decorated. This animated film offers young filmgoers an age-appropriate look at one of the worst conflicts in history, gives them a hero to root for and even celebrates time-honored virtues that are often overlooked now: bravery. Patriotism. Family. Duty.

While the movie does hint at some of the terrors and tragedies of war, I think that's only appropriate. And outside of that wartime context (along with a smidge of name-calling and some visual references to certain doggie grooming habits), the film keeps its wet nose pretty clean.

Sgt. Stubby never asked to go to war. Not many do. But when he found himself there, he served with distinction—with no promise of anything but a little companionship and a nice bone at the end of the day.

And as far as I'm concerned, that's worth a salute or two.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Voices of Logan Lerman as Robert Conroy; Helena Bonham Carter as Margaret Conroy; Gérard Depardieu as Gaston Baptiste; Jordan Beck as Elmber Olsen; Jim Pharr as Hans Schroeder; Jason Ezzell as Sgt. Casburn

Director

Richard Lanni ( )

Distributor

Fun Academy Motion Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

April 13, 2018

On Video

December 11, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

Content Caution

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

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!