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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Many messages delivered clearly in dialogue: "Don't worry about the next game. Enjoy this one." "Make a choice and go on." "Don't let life happen to you. You happen to life." "If you make a mistake, admit it." "Think creatively. Be inspired." "Change isn't a bad thing. Often something has to close before something else can open." Throughout, the game of chess is used as a metaphor for life; the chess board is a metaphor for the city.
Positive Role Models
Max is thoughtful, reliable, smart, brave, and loving. She gains much wisdom as the story unfolds. Max's parents and a grandmother are concerned, responsible, trusting, and devoted. For the most part, private-school girls are portrayed as non-inclusive, unfriendly, and easily swayed by the spirit of the mean girl in their midst. The private-school parents are depicted as narrow-minded, snobbish, and smug. Set in New York City, there is ethnic diversity throughout.
Violence & Scariness
Max's beloved grandmother dies, but the scenes surrounding Max's loss are short and do not dwell on grief. Brief mean-girl bullying.
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Occasional coarse language: "crappy," "hell," "kick your butt," "diarrhea," "turd" (appears as subtitle).
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Products & Purchases
Quiksilver, Corrado Bread and Pastry (NYC).
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A mom and dad share a bottled beer.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Little Game is an earnest coming-of-age tale of Max, a 10-year-old girl dealing with change, sadness, and life lessons. The film uses chess to help Max come to terms with the issues she's facing, but the actual chess-playing time is minimal, and the story requires no previous knowledge of the game. The filmmakers attempt to use chess, the chessboard, and its pieces as metaphors for life. During the course of the movie, Max's beloved grandmother dies, but the scenes surrounding Max's loss are short and do not dwell on grief. What does emerge from the event are Max's reflections on the fragility and ephemeral nature of life as she's supported by a loving parent. There are a few insults ("crappy," "hell," "kick your butt," "diarrhea," "turd"). Affluent kids and their families are mostly portrayed as negative stereotypes; there is brief mean-girl bullying. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Writer-director Evan Oppenheimer has elicited some terrific performances, photographed New York City with style, and delivered a movie with appeal for older kids and tweens. The story deals with thoughts and situations with which most kids struggle during their formative middle-grade years. But there's nothing subtle here; the messages are straightforward, frequent, and predictable. F. Murray Abraham tries his best to create a memorable character out of one we've often seen before. Some of the metaphoric tasks Norman assigns to Max are real stretches, and the young girl would have to be clairvoyant to figure them out. Still, though there are ideas, situations, and scenes that may seem obvious to parents, they will be effective and engaging for young viewers.
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.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate