A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 18 to Party is a dialogue-heavy drama about eighth graders in small-town America in 1984. The kids are hanging out in a parking lot waiting for a club to open in hopes they'll be allowed in, despite being underage. They pass the time by chatting, sometimes opening up and sometimes attacking each other, similar to The Breakfast Club. The overarching theme is suicide's impact on a community, and the story subtly links lack of parental attention to the era's spike in teen deaths. Although the film is peppered with authentic elements like Hard Rock T-shirts, acid-washed jeans, and mentions of Judas Priest and The Fixx, it doesn't deliver a truly accurate sense of what it was like to be a teen in the '80s. Expect frequent profanity from the 13-year-old characters (including "f--got" and "f--k"), the use of BB guns, fistfights, conversations about death, and a teen smoking and doing drugs. Some of them also kiss, and it's implied that a boy has a pornographic magazine.
What's the story?
Set in 1984, 18 TO PARTY is about a group of eighth graders sitting in a parking lot in hopes they'll be let into a nightclub. While they wait, they debate whether their town is jinxed, talk about the recent deaths of several local teens, and discuss the UFO sighting that's preoccupied their parents.
Is it any good?
Its title suggests a Superbad-like quest for underage partying, but this film is actually a talky, dismal take on what it was like to be a kid in the '80s. Writer-director Jeff Roda tries to evoke The Breakfast Club-style confrontational conversations that draw out empathy, but too often, it just seems like the actors are running lines. The dialogue doesn't sparkle; in fact, it's incredibly redundant: Characters talk by repeating the same words to each other. And with everything taking place in one location, there's not a lot of action.
That said, the scene setting is tremendous. Costume designer Eva Lopez hits a home run, re-creating 1984 styles as they were rather than the fabulous way we want to remember them (see: the Valley Girl remake). And the movie's score is right on the money, using unknown dream pop tracks from The Alarm, Big Audio Dynamite, and The Velvet Underground to create the environment for anguished insecurity to take root. Roda also succeeds in taking Gen X viewers down memory lane by including mentions of pop culture moments past, like Watership Down and The Clash. But ultimately there's nothing to get your hooks into, no character whose story takes off. For older viewers, the game will be to spot something familiar, whether it's a reference or a situation. Younger viewers may look for an inroad to understanding the decade but leave wondering "where's the beef?" 18 to Party connects the dots but doesn't complete the picture.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the realities of the 1980s versus the way pop culture likes to paint the decade today. How does nostalgia impact our view of the past?
Did you know that in 1984, federal law changed the drinking age from 18 to 21? Before then, you had to be "18 to party." What do you think about the law? Is it justified?
What is the movie saying about parenting in the 1980s? Many '80s teens grew up to become "helicopter parents." Why do you think that is?
How is communication on display in this film? How does communication help us understand others' actions? How is communication shown as an outlet for processing grief?
- In theaters: November 6, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 2020
- Cast: Taylor Richardson, Sam McCarthy, Tanner Flood
- Director: Jeff Roda
- Studio: Giant Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Middle School
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: December 18, 2020
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