Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says OK for kids 9+
Lovingly realistic coming-of-age story is a classic.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Little Fugitive is an influential 1953 coming-of-age film where the main characters are two brothers, 7 and 12, who end up in some fairly grown-up situations. The movie revolves around a cruel practical joke in which the younger brother is made to believe that he has shot and killed his older brother with a real gun (it's actually a toy). The younger boy runs away and is on his own for most of the movie. In addition to the practical joke and the use of toy guns, we see kids fighting; couples on the beach kissing, and language includes phrases like "shut up, you dope."
- Families can talk about the cruel, violent practical joke that Lennie and his friends play on Joey. What are the consequences of this joke? What would cause kids to do such a thing?
- Can you imagine this movie being made today? What are some differences between what kids did or played with in the 1950s as compared to today?
- Lennie gets the short end of the stick here: it's his birthday, but he doesn't get much of a chance to be a kid. Does he have a right to be upset? What would be a better way he could express this?
The good stuff
Positive messages: Despite starting off with a terribly cruel practical joke, Lennie realizes the error of his ways and tries to correct his unethical behavior. In the end, the brothers learn a new kind of love and respect for one another.
Positive role models: Lennie eventually stops thinking of himself and becomes concerned for his brother. He acts responsibly for most of the movie, but only after his terrible mistake. The pony ride man is also somewhat admirable, trying to help Joey as much as he can in his limited capacity.
What to watch for
Violence: The major plot device concerns a mean practical joke, making a 7-year-old believe that he has shot and killed his 12-year-old brother with a real gun. One of the older boys scares the younger boy with: "You'll fry.... you'll burn!" The younger boy runs around for the entire film with a toy gun, and the older boy gets into a fight with his friend (mostly wrestling, pushing, and pulling). There's also a reference to the boys' father being dead. At the carnival, there's a quick montage of scary images.
Sexy stuff: We see several older couples kissing on the beach. One little boy's naked bottom is on view.
Language: The kids say mild, 1950s-era things like "drop dead," and "pest" and "shut up, you dope."
Consumerism: Coke and Pepsi bottles are on view throughout the movie, but not prominently. (The younger boy collects all kinds of empty bottles for the deposit money.) Also, some billboards for Pepsi and Seagrams are visible.
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not an issue