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 intense political drama will probably be of little interest to their kids. Women are sexual objects for men. Some women dance onstage wearing scant clothing and striking provocative poses, while another young woman, romanticized in soft light, appears both naked in a river and undressing for sex with her partner. A politician travels with a bodyguard who carries and shoots a pistol. Two bloody shootings, one of which is a suicide. Characters frequently smoke cigars and cigarettes, and a couple of them are alcoholics.
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What's the story?
ALL THE KING'S MEN stars Sean Penn as Willie Stark. An ambitious, teetotaling Louisiana politician, Willie promises his poor constituents that he'll fight the smug, rich upstate powerbrokers. While professional politicians make fun of Willie's country-bumpkinish predilections, reporter Jack Burden (Jude Law) sees in Willie an essential decency. As Jack narrates Willie's story, it intersects with his own. Willie loses his way after getting distracted by the conventional emblems of corruption -- women and alcohol. His inevitable downfall is based on Robert Penn Warren's 1946 novel about real-life politician Huey Long).
Is it any good?
Ambitious but slow-moving and trite, All the King's Men features a strong performance by Sean Penn. And from the start, Jack takes a complicated sort of high road: The camera looks down on him as he lies in bed, describing the pursuit of "truth" in terms both ethical and professional. He pronounces that such pursuit must be premised on a belief in its potential benefit, already alluding to the great harm that befalls almost everyone in the film who uncovers secrets. What Jack leaves out is the film's more compelling lesson -- that this so-called truth is actually a fiction.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the political process. Candidates are often elected based on promises to voters -- what happens after they're elected, when their efforts to fulfill those promises encounter roadblocks like lack of funding or loss of idealism? Do voters really believe that campaign promises will be kept? Should politicians be more accountable to their constituents? What are the strengths and weaknesses of America's political system?
- In theaters: September 22, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: December 19, 2006
- Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Sean Penn
- Director: Steven Zaillian
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 128 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: an intense sequence of violence, sexual content and partial nudity.
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