A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids will learn a few facts about hermit crabs and sea crabs, as well as New Jersey beach boardwalk amenities.
Encourages looking beyond background and class to see someone's authentic self. The characters prove that everyone is capable of bravery and selflessness. Teamwork and empathy save the day.
Positive Role Models
Armen is timid but ultimately brave. He steps beyond his comfort zone and rescues his friends. He's loyal to Anemone and later Ramona. Despite her sheltered upbringing, Ramona is brave enough to defend Armen and help him escape and find their way back to their community. She's an attentive big sister and friend. Various supporting characters prove to be more than the stereotypes associated with them -- except for Mako, who remains a privileged, self-centered jerk.
Disability representation includes one hermit crab who's missing a claw but can still fight well and a deaf crab who signs. The voice cast includes many Italian American and/or New Jersey-raised actors, including Michael Cera, Bobby Cannavale, Steven Van Zandt, and more. The last names of many "townies" are types ofItalian food: Marinara, Cacciatore, etc. One of the main characters is voiced by Black actor Keke Palmer. There are some stereotypes about Italian Jersey folks in the movie (Jersey Shore, Bon Jovi, the Boss, The Sopranos-style mobsters, etc.). Screenwriter Lorene Scafaria is a Jersey-born, Italian American, and the stereotypical humor comes off as more mildly self-deprecating and as a tribute than mocking.
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Violence & Scariness
Some sea crabs treat hermit crabs disrespectfully, and the hermit crabs react aggressively. Friend groups threaten one another and start to fight. Ramona tries to stop a fight. A storm leads to huge waves that sweep Ramona and Armen out to sea (they live). The storm also causes property destruction and at least one crab to lose their shell. Big Sal speaks threateningly about not saying "nothin'" to people. A character gets sick and vomits after a roller coaster ride.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Several moments of flirting. Couples embrace, hold claws, kiss briefly, or cuddle while on dates.
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Insults (sometimes self-directed) include "meathead," "stupid idiot," "moron," "dumb," "spritz boy," "weak," "townie." "Get your claws off of me!"
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Nightclub and restaurant scenes feature crabs eating and drinking, but it's not clear whether or not they're having alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Under the Boardwalk is an animated musical adventure about the hermit crabs who live on the Jersey Shore and the tension between the year-round residents and the wealthy, touristy sea crabs. A few scenes include moments of peril and fights or threats between the two groups, and a storm leads to property destruction, the loss of shells, and two characters being swept out to sea. There's a bit of romance between the main character, who's a timid land crab, and a vivacious sea crab -- they flirt, hold claws, embrace, nuzzle, etc. -- and existing couples are seen embracing and on dates. Language includes insults like "meathead," "stupid idiot," "dumb," and "townie." Prepare for lots of Jersey-centric jokes (there are nods to Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, and more), but they're more of a tribute than an insult, and the movie has messages about teamwork and empathy. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The Garden State's beaches get another moment in the spotlight in this short and surprisingly sweet musical adventure. The premise might make some viewers initially skeptical -- particularly the Jersey Shore references -- but Under the Boardwalk is like a pop-culture reference-filled take on the old 1950s and '60s teen beach movies, with musical numbers, forbidden romance, and class issues all swirling together in a family-friendly animated film. Screenwriter Lorene Scafaria (an Italian American New Jersey native) pokes fun at the Jersey identity, but there's also a palpable pride in the humor ("Holy Bon Jovi" being a favorite among the characters' exclamations).
Cera is ideally cast as the introverted Armen, and Palmer does a fine job as the braver Ramona. Funches, Bobby Cannavale, John Magaro, Steven Van Zandt, Mario Cantone, and Phil LaMarr all voice various supporting characters, with Funches and LaMarr especially noteworthy as Cera's live-in Anemone and a Jersey mobster crab named Big Sal. The songs are catchy and funny, including the big opener, "Welcome to New Jersey" and duet "Look Around." Cannavale's "More than a Meathead" is a silly but tender wish to be seen for more than his crab's big, bronzed muscles. Like that song, the movie is more than meets the eye and makes for a fun family pick.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.