A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Royal Night Out is a "what if" movie that takes real historical personalities and imagines them in an improbable story. In this fairy-tale comedy, what if young heir-in-waiting Princess Elizabeth and little sister Margaret had convinced their parents, the king and queen of England, to let them celebrate the end of World War II on the streets of London with all the rest of its rowdy, rejoicing citizens? Their astonishing adventure finds the two teens, unrecognized in the crowds, in what might be some dangerous situations if it weren't all in fun. They meet up with gangsters, prostitutes, and an AWOL soldier. They get lost in swarming crowds, run from the military police, and, in one instance, almost become victim to a sexual predator. Drunkenness, including underage drinking, is the backdrop in scene after scene of the revelry. That, and a bit of profanity ("ass," "whore"), some near nudity (a flash of breast), and comic sexual situations makes this otherwise innocent film best for teens and up.
What's the story?
After the nightmare of six years of war fought on English soil, V-E Day (Victory in Europe), May 8, 1945, was a wild and joyous night; A ROYAL NIGHT OUT imagines that night from the point of view of young Princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and her pesky little sister, Princess Margaret (Bel Powley). When they finally agree to let the girls have their night on the town, neither their father, King George VI (Rupert Everett), nor their mother (Emily Watson) could possibly foresee the amazing adventure these innocent "incognito" girls would encounter. In true fish-out-of-water and prince-and-pauper style, the girls are separated, are abandoned by their dim-witted chaperones, and fall into the hands of both good guys and bad guys. The entire city (including a brothel, a gambling den, and a swank hotel) is their playground; the jubilant (many of them drunk and unruly) are their playmates. After a close call or two, a sweet romance, and the reveal that they are, indeed, the royal teens, they return to the castle with their curiosity satisfied, their confidence soaring, and their virtue intact.
Is it any good?
Terrific performances by Sarah Gadon and Bel Powley as Lilibet and P2 give this film charm enough to see its way through a thin plot and a few softly landed attempts at poignancy. Cinematography, costumes, sets, and direction are all first-rate and bring a vibrant spirit to the not-so-distant past when wars actually celebrated an ending. Setting the story amid some iffy activities (underage drinking and drunkenness, visits to a brothel and a gambling den) may make it too mature for tweens and middle-grade kids, and that's a shame. It's a fairy tale, after all.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they've learned of World War II many decades after the real events. Does a story like this one increase your curiosity or desire to know more about that war? If it's possible, seek out someone who recalls the events of 1945, and ask them to share memories of what it was like.
Why do you think it's fun to watch stories about very rich people pretending to be ordinary or ordinary people pretending to be very rich? Create your own "what if" story about a place you'd like to go and not be recognized.
According to the movie, drinking (and getting drunk) was the main way people celebrated this monumental event. What other healthier, more productive ways are there to express relief, gratitude, and joy?
- In theaters: December 4, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: May 3, 2016
- Cast: Sarah Gadon, Bel Powley, Jack Reynor
- Director: Julian Jarrold
- Studio: Atlas Distribution
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Princesses and Fairies, Brothers and Sisters, History
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sexual content and brief drug elements
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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.