Making the Grades
In this big screen adaptation of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's award winning book Shiloh, Marty Preston (Blake Heron) dreams of what all young boys hope for at one time or another... a shiny new bike. Because tough financial times have fallen on his family, Marty realizes if he wants a bicycle he will have to raise the money himself. Armed with his rifle and new best friend Sam (J. Madison Wright), the determined entrepreneur sets out in search of odd jobs and creative ways to earn cash. One would think the pair would be semi-successful (especially toting a .22), but pickings remain slim. Then it happens. Marty sees an adorable runaway beagle and is struck by the most powerful force on earth -- puppy love. His bike desires are soon replaced with dreams of owning the cute little Shiloh.
Unfortunately, Shiloh already has a master: Judd Travers (Scott Wilson), a rather unsavory neighbor with questionable hunting practices, who is well known for his never-ending cruelty toward his pets (used as hunting dogs). Shiloh has cause to run away more than once, each time beating a path straight to the friendly Prestons. The family hates returning the pup to his harsh owner, but Marty's stern though-loving father (Michael Moriarty) insists on doing the right thing. Yet what is the right thing?
Shades of gray begin to cloud Marty's judgment, and he decides to secretly keep the abused pooch in a dilapidated shed not far from his house. Unfortunately, the tangled web of cover-up lies does not support his fantasy for long. Nor does the deception do anything to help the strained relationships and power struggle that the dark mists of monetary hardship have hung over the Preston household.
Although youngsters may be bothered by the animal violence (which includes instances where small amounts of blood are shown), Shiloh still weaves a "tail" brimming with honesty, integrity, and responsibility. Families may find these powerful themes worthy of "paws" and reflection.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Shiloh.
Considering the mistreatment Shiloh was facing, do you think that Marty should have returned him to Judd? Is animal abuse worse than stealing? Do two wrongs make a right?
Judd quotes from the Bible while attempting to justify the harsh treatment of his animals. To explain the practice of spanking, some parents also quote scripture: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” How does your family feel about that kind of punishment?