Low-key family adventure has some dark imagery.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this family adventure movie, based on a bestselling 2006 novel by Watt Key, features some intense scenes of violence, including the death of a parent, and a shot of a broken leg with protruding bone and some gore. A second character also dies. There are knives and guns on view (no shots fired), as well as some threats and fighting. The movie features some gateway language ("damn" and "hell") and some offscreen kissing between teens. The 11-year-old hero makes some mistakes, but eventually learns some good lessons: he learns to trust others rather than hiding away.
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Great movie for boys
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What's the Story?
Following the loss of his mother, Moon (Jimmy Bennett), and his Pap (J.D. Evermore) live off the land deep in the woods, mistrusting others and forever hiding. When Pap dies of an infected broken leg, a mean constable (Clint Howard) nabs Moon and throws him in a penitentiary for boys. There Moon befriends an older bully, Hal (Gabriel Basso), and a younger, sickly kid, Kit (Uriah Shelton), and escapes with them, planning to head to Alaska. Unfortunately, the constable will not let the boys rest, and the idea of living alone in the woods for the rest of their lives starts to sound more daunting than exciting. Can a kindly lawyer (John Goodman) untangle this mess and help set things right?
Is It Any Good?
Directed by Tim McCanlies (Secondhand Lions), ALABAMA MOON is big-hearted and sweet and likable, but it also feels rushed and truncated, as well as uneven in tone. It begins with some very intense, dramatic scenes in which an 11-year-old loses his father and becomes an orphan, and then the tone settles on a rather lightweight, and even comical adventure story that stays somewhat inert; while there is much talk of going to Alaska, most of the images consist of the boys hanging around in one spot. The story doesn't really move.
Add to this the cardboard villain, the arrogant, mean constable played by cult actor Clint Howard, as well as more soapy drama toward the end, and it feels as if these scenes were crammed together, regardless of fit or mood. Yet the movie is not a complete loss. There are many warm, lovely scenes, and the appeal of the mop-top Jimmy Bennett helps a great deal, as does the presence of that kindly old grizzly bear John Goodman.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. Was it necessary to show the father's gory broken leg? Was it necessary for two characters to die? How does the hero react to, or learn from, these events?
At what point does Moon start to realize that his father's lessons may have been a bit wrongheaded? What parts of his father's teachings come in handy?
How does Moon handle the bully, and what happens afterward? is the bully scary? How would this attempt work in real life?
- In theaters: March 18, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: May 17, 2011
- Cast: Clint Howard, Jimmy Bennett, John Goodman
- Director: Tim McCanlies
- Studio: Faulkner-McLean Entertainment
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, language and a brief injury
- Last updated: January 6, 2023
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