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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that it's a good idea to prepare younger kids beforehand by telling them what Apollo 13 is about; you may want to reassure them, since it is a true story, that the astronauts end up coming home all right. Be prepared for some very tense scenes when the characters are in peril, and note that everyone in Mission Control is a white male (and they smoke a fair bit, which is accurate for the era). Fairly frequent profanity includes "s--t," "damn," "bitch," "ass," and what sounds like "f--k." A demonstration with a beer bottle sliding into a glass has sexual undertones.
What's the story?
Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks plays real-life astronaut-hero Jim Lovell in this true story of the APOLLO 13 mission to the moon that almost left three astronauts stranded in space when an oxygen tank exploded. Mission Control, thousands of miles away from the stranded astronauts, must figure out a way to get the men home in one piece.
Is it any good?
In addition to the thrilling story, masterful performances, and impeccable technical authenticity, this movie is a heartening story of the triumph of smart guys with slide rules. It should be called "Smart and Smarter," a relief in this era of movies about characters who triumph by being dumb. Even though viewers know the Apollo 13 mission turned out all right, even though the technical material is dense and the action is confined to a space smaller than an elevator, the tension is breathtaking, as the astronauts and the mission control team in Houston try to think their way back home. Everything from duct tape to the cover of the flight manual to one of the astronaut's socks is used in this pre-McGuyver story, where mission control asks simply, "What's good on that ship?" and builds from there.
The legendary "Failure is not an option," said by Gene Kranz, head of Mission Control, when most people were certain the astronauts would never make it back, is worth discussing. So are the changes since you were your children's age. Note that everyone in Mission Control is a white male (and they all smoke all the time). They are amazed that a computer is small enough to fit into one room. And you may have to explain why adults who watch the movie laugh when the engineers take out their slide rules -- for kids today, they are more exotic than an abacus.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way that Mission Control solves the problems happening thousands of miles away by re-creating the conditions inside the spaceship Apollo 13. Point out how the adults handle the strain, sometimes losing their tempers or blaming one another (or trying to escape blame), but mostly working very well together.
Discuss the real-life event that inspired the movie. Ask older family members if they remember the event. Kids who want to learn more can go to the library or conduct Internet research.
- In theaters: June 30, 1995
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 2002
- Cast: Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Tom Hanks
- Director: Ron Howard
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Adventures, History, Space and aliens
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 140 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language and emotional intensity
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