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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this action thriller stars Twilight hunk Taylor Lautner and rising star Lily Collins, so it's sure to attract teens. But there's a fair bit of violence, language, and intrigue that might make it too mature for tween members of Team Jacob. The more intense sequences include several character deaths, execution-style shootings, sniper kills, and a couple of brutal beatings, one of which results in a man being chucked out of a speeding train. Even the teen girl is terrorized and beaten. (All of that said, there's not a lot of blood here.) Swearing includes "s--t," "ass," and one "f--k"); sexuality is mostly flirting, hand holding, and slow dancing -- plus one heated make-out session between teens. An early scene shows teens drinking, including the main character, who gets very drunk.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Nathan (Taylor Lautner) is a high school wrestling champ with attentive, affectionate parents and a few close friends. After he's paired up in class with his neighbor, the crush-worthy Karen (Lily Collins), the two start researching a sociology project about missing children ... only to discover a photo of a boy who looks a lot like Nathan. Curious about the uncanny similarities, Nathan contacts the website's chatline, which is actually maintained by a nefarious foreign baddie. Before Nathan can fully confront his mom (Maria Bello) and dad (Jason Isaacs), hit men strike the house, sending Nathan and Karen on the run. Reeling with grief and confusion, Nathan and Karen are advised by his therapist, Dr. Bennett (Sigourney Weaver), not to trust the CIA and are left on their own to evade both government and international operatives trying to track them down.
Is it any good?
The best part of this John Singleton production is the sheer number of excellent actors who pop up as supporting players. In addition to Bello and Isaacs -- who have more chemistry in a couple of scenes than Collins and Lautner in the entire film -- there's Weaver, Swedish star Michael Nyqvist (of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Alfred Molina, who plays a squirrelly CIA agent in charge of the mission to rescue Nathan. It makes perfect sense that Singleton recruited a cast of acclaimed actors to bolster Lautner's leading-man debut, but sadly he's not up to the task yet. If anything, he should find an ensemble where he lends support to actors like his co-stars.
As Twilight heartthrob Jacob, Lautner's intensity makes him downright irresistible -- especially if you're only paying attention to his shirtless scenes. But the truth is that as adorable as Lautner may be -- and as gifted with the physicality necessary for an action career -- he lacks the acting range to carry a movie's emotional center. The scenes of Nathan crying are painful to watch, because you can tell how difficult they were for Lautner. And the screenplay doesn't do him any favors; it has him speaking and acting in a completely unbelievable manner for a guy who's just lost his parents. Collins is cute enough, but aside from one admittedly steamy kissing scene, the two don't conjure any heat.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the amount of violence in the film. Is it cartoonish and unbelievable or realistic and disturbing? How does that affect its impact?
What are some other movies that feature the "hidden identity" theme? Why do audiences respond to orphaned characters? Name some other famous pop-culture orphans.
How does the movie portray teen drinking? Does it have realistic consequences?
- In theaters: September 23, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: January 16, 2012
- Cast: Lily Collins, Sigourney Weaver, Taylor Lautner
- Director: John Singleton
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of intense violence and action, brief language, some sexual content and teen partying
For kids who love action thrillers
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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.