Dean Spanley

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Not recommended under 5 (violence) Lacks interest under 13

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Dean Spanley
  • a review of Dean Spanley completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 5 March 2009.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not suitable due to violence and lack of interest
Children aged 5-12 Ok for this age group but may lack interest.
Children aged 13 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Dean Spanley
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: none
Length: 100 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Fisk Junior (Jeremy Northam) spends every Thursday trying to connect with his elderly, insensitive father Fisk Senior (Peter O’Toole). It is on one such Thursday that a chance encounter at a seminar about reincarnation leads to an unlikely acquaintance between Fisk Junior, Wrather (Bryan Brown) an adventurous scallywag and the religious Dean Spanley (Sam Neill) who happens to believe, under the influence of alcohol, that he used to be a dog. Over a series of dinners and conversations with the Dean, Fisk learns far more about reincarnation than he bargained for and in the process is able to help heal his father’s wounded heart


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death; Reincarnation; Family relationships

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Fisk Senior’s childhood dog Wag was shot, along with another dog. Their actual death is not shown, only a shadowy man aiming a rifle and a shot ringing out.
  • Fisk Junior’s brother died in the Boer War. There are flashbacks to him sitting on horseback with a gun and later images of him lying dead in a field.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Apart from the scenes described above, there is nothing in this film which is likely to disturb children under five.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Apart from the scenes described above, there is nothing in this film which is likely to disturb children under eight.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Wrather tells Fisk Junior that wine loosens the corsets and also the morals of women.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • There is a painting in a gentlemen’s club that depicts a woman with bare breasts.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Alcohol is used frequently throughout the film.

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language in this movie, including:

  • damn

In a nutshell

Dean Spanley is an interesting drama, containing frequent, subtle humour that is likely to appeal to adults and older teenagers. Most children under 13 are unlikely to be interested in the film because of the lack of action and constant conversation or narration.