A Happening of Monumental Proportions

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
A Happening of Monumental Proportions Movie Poster Image
Language, sexual situations in so-so ensemble comedy.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 81 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Title/plot could be interpreted to mean "Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff." But there's actually a fair bit of big stuff happening (absent parents, marriages in jeopardy, suicidal thoughts). You can also look at it as saying "Every person has his or her struggle," though that seems to go against the grain of several of the plots' resolutions. Still, parent-child relationships are valued, as is frank communication.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Single dad Daniel is dedicated and loving, though he does several iffy things. His daughter is smart, responsible, caring. Her new classmate is earnest, well-intentioned, though perhaps overeager. Almost everyone else behaves foolishly, selfishly, dishonestly/pettily.


A fight between adult men at an elementary school is played for laughs due to its incompetence. A dead body is a plot point; it's carried around and discussed. One person falls from a rooftop but is miraculously OK. Arguing/confrontations.


A fair amount of sex talk. An extramarital affair is a plot point, with frank descriptions of a sex act performed (it's extensively discussed, including in front of children). One character angrily demands to see another's genitalia. A crude drawing of a penis is a plot element.


Frequent strong language, primarily "f--k." Also "s--t," "bulls--t," "d--k," "c--k," and more. Sexual descriptions.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character wakes up in his car after having passed out drunk there the night before; he throws up. He later smokes a cigarette on school grounds (which is called out and objected to).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Happening of Monumental Proportions is an adult-oriented ensemble comedy in which many characters' storylines come together during one day in an office/at a school. Expect strong language, including frank description of sexual situations and cursing (primarily "f--k," plus "s--t" and others). There's also some violence that's largely played for laughs: Two dads fight, badly; characters come across/deal with a dead body (no gore); and depressed characters briefly seem to consider suicide. Several people argue with, confront, and threaten one another; one smokes a cigarette and wakes up hung over, then vomits. A drawing of a penis is a plot point. The film marks the directorial debut of veteran actress Judy Greer and boasts a seemingly endless cast list of familiar faces led by Common, Allison Janney, and Bradley Whitford.

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What's the story?

In A HAPPENING OF MONUMENTAL PROPORTIONS, a widowed dad named Daniel (Common) faces a tough day at work as his affair with a married colleague (Jennifer Garner) comes to light and his new boss, Arthur (Bradley Whitford), seems to have it in for him. Daniel's smart young daughter (Storm Reid) meets a new boy (Marcus Eckert) at school who's desperately trying to connect and fit in. One of their teachers (Anders Holm) is suffering an existential crisis after being left by his wife. Meanwhile, the principal (Allison Janney) and her helpers (Rob Riggle and Marla Sokoloff) discover that one of the school's landscapers has died on campus and are baffled by how best to deal with the situation.

Is it any good?

Predictably, with an ensemble this size, this comedy's stories and characters are related in thumbnail sketches rather than fully realized. The script struggles to balance the smallness of everyday concerns (a father coming to speak at his daughter's career day, an office coffee maker getting vandalized, a new student feeling awkward) with larger issues (three deaths hang over the film) and outlandish farce elements (a cheated-on husband demands a meeting, a new boss is tyrannical, the police don't investigate a death). As more and more recognizable actors pop up in the cast (John Cho, Katie Holmes, Kumail Nanjiani, Nat Faxon, and more), the center doesn't hold. Is A Happening of Monumental Proportions about nothing mattering that much -- or everything mattering that much? It seems to want it both ways. As a result, when a character goes so far as to contemplate suicide, there's no real tension.

Farce works best when we’re along for the desperate ride, but here, too much behavior is unrealistic for the stakes to matter. On the plus side, Common is a likable presence when he wants to be, just as Whitford is always fun to root against. A couple of the cameos are amusing; the final one helps create the funniest part of the film. There are other funny moments, as when a confident kid declares that her father says you should only do what you love -- and when she says he's an accountant, a fed-up adult responds, "And a liar. An accountant and a liar." But ultimately the film might have benefited from some clarity and from convincing its own characters that each moment truly was A Happening of Monumental Proportions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the meaning of the movie's title. One character specifically refers to school career day as "a happening of monumental proportions," but how do you think it's meant?

  • What would you say the movie is about? Does it have a particular message?

  • Which characters do you consider role models? Why?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love to laugh

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