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 smart but violent UK alien invasion movie from some of the folks behind cult faves Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz features lots of cartoony sci-fi monster battles, with heavy gore (expect to see severed heads, spurting blood, limbs being torn off, and more). Language is likewise strong, with streetwise teens constantly using "f--k" and other words, and pot-smoking is a major event in the characters' lives -- some of the teens spend the entire movie stoned, and they hang out with a drug dealer who keeps a special room filled with pot plants. Beneath all of the iffy stuff, though, there are messages about working together and learning to respect others.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
While talking to her mum on her cell phone, nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) wanders down the wrong street in South London. A group of masked teens -- led by Moses (John Boyega) -- mugs her, but their task is interrupted when something strange falls from the sky. It turns out to be an alien, which the teen thugs decide to find and kill. Unfortunately this act inspires revenge from above, and soon the neighborhood is under attack by an increasing number of angry beasties. By a strange twist of fate, Sam unexpectedly finds herself teamed up with Moses and her former muggers -- as well as a couple of oddball pot dealers -- facing off against the aliens. Can this ragtag band find a way to defeat the invaders and save the earth?
Is it any good?
After a series of dull, brain-dead alien invasion movies (Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles, Transformers, etc.), ATTACK THE BLOCK manages to be fresh, frisky, and surprising. This is UK writer/director Joe Cornish's his feature debut after a career in television (he also co-wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin). No, the visual effects aren't terribly impressive, but they're also not crucial -- the movie's focuses instead on the quirky character dynamic and the related social ramifications.
The film's theme is perception -- not only how humans perceive the aliens, but also how humans perceive each other. But this canny commentary is (cleverly) hidden amid an onslaught of gore, sly humor, and stoner humor. Exciting, entertaining, and rewarding, this movie (which was co-produced by Edgar Wright, the director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) has everything except a huge summer marketing campaign.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. What effect does it have? How does it feel when characters die? Would it have a different impact if the movie had a more serious tone?
What does the movie have to say about inner city teens? Are they "bad" kids or "good" kids? What makes them do iffy things?
How does the movie portray drug use? What are some real-life consequences of similar activities?
- In theaters: July 29, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: October 25, 2011
- Cast: Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Nick Frost
- Director: Joe Cornish
- Studio: Screen Gems
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: creature violence, drug content and pervasive language
- Last updated: August 31, 2020
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