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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Drug users and dealers, undercover cops (narcs) and organization/city officials all lie to betray one another. Police are brutal.
Violence & Scariness
Addict imagines bug attack, then a shooting in the head (brief, brutal image); various falls and threats made by paranoid drug users; the central drug is said to destroy brains.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
(All animated): Breasts visible, sexual activity explicit and brief; young men discuss sex with a woman.
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Frequent language: multiple f-words (over 30); slightly fewer s-words; some creative permutations of obscenities ("freckle-d---").
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Frequent cigarette smoking; "drug epidemic" drives the plot (the drug severs brain hemispheres); characters sell and purchase drugs, smoke cigarettes (cigarette butts fill several ashtrays), drink liquor, discuss and name drugs (cocaine, for example).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this animated science fiction film includes frequent discussions of drugs, both real (cocaine) and not (something called Substance D). Addicts, dealers, and cops lie to each other and lament their loss of trust and community. Characters also drink and smoke cigarettes. A sex scene shows a woman's naked body (including exposed breasts) during the act, which is fairly explicit. There is rough language and some gritty images, incuding a drug addict imagining himself being shot in the head, and another throwing up while being admitted to an alleged rehab center. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
To the extent that this thought-provoking film adopts any conventional form, it establishes Bob as the most sympathetic of the addicts. Examined by doctors, Bob learns that his use of D is having its inevitable effect, severing the hemispheres in his brain, such that he can no longer keep track of his multiple lives, forgetting where he is and what he's doing. Primary among Bob's confusions is his relationship with his girl, also his dealer, Donna (Winona Ryder). Like other woman characters imagined by Philip Dick, Donna is more baffling and remote than dependable, but she also pulses with a sense of grim knowledge.
One of the film's most compelling inventions is the "scramble suit," which serves partly as undercover device for Bob and his co-workers, partly as means to evade responsibility and seek revelation, and partly as metaphors for lost identities. The characters who wear them look like everyone and no one, their outward appearances shifting millions of times per minute. Scanner's unique animation is striking, and the conspiracy that begins to unravel -- through a disintegrating drug addicts perspective -- is equally seductive. Mature viewers may not always understand what is happening on screen, but they will be compelled none the less.
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Our Editors Recommend
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