A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bad Times at the El Royale is a Tarantino-esque crime movie with tons of stylized, over-the-top violence. You'll see lots of guns and shooting (including murders via shotgun), bloody wounds, blood spatters, death, punching and hitting, knives, and stabbing. Women are shot, punched, and tied up, and a war flashback includes hundreds of dead bodies. A man is shown naked in silhouette; nothing sensitive is visible. There are also spoken references to sex/sex acts and prostitutes. Language is very strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. A character is shown passed out with a needle sticking out of his arm, and there's fairly frequent smoking and drinking (whiskey). The director (Drew Goddard) and cast (Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, and more) will no doubt appeal to many, and while it's a bit flat in places, there's enough here to make it worth a viewing for mature moviegoers.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE, it's 1969, and several people arrive at the El Royale Hotel, which is on the border between California and Nevada. The group includes traveling salesman Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), forgetful priest Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges), struggling singer Darlene Sweet (Tony-winner Cynthia Erivo, of Broadway's The Color Purple), and the mysterious Emily (Dakota Johnson), who appears to have kidnapped a young woman (Cailee Spaeny). They all check in with clerk Miles (Lewis Pullman), who seems to be running the entire hotel by himself. Once the guests lock their doors, the truth begins to come out. Nothing is as it seems, and shady secrets abound. But everything changes when magnetic cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) turns up. In a violent showdown, all secrets will be revealed.
Is it any good?
Part Agatha Christie and part Quentin Tarantino, this multi-character crime/chamber piece is too long, with too many stops and starts, but it has enough inspired moments to make it worth a look. Written and directed by Drew Goddard, Bad Times at the El Royale starts with a bang -- a flashback featuring Nick Offerman -- and then slows down for a long time. More flashbacks have the effect of stopping the movie dead in its tracks. And, despite the presence of such commanding actors as Hamm, Bridges, and Hemsworth, the characters are somehow a little flat.
But the movie is cleverly designed, with a fascinating use of space and sound. A sequence involving a kind of secret room is mesmerizing, especially when it involves Darlene. She's a real surprise in that she's actually not a criminal, though she certainly has a troubled past. When she cuts loose and sings in her room, all the characters stop and listen. The movie's canny use of echoey sound makes her songs all the more heartbreaking. The other ace in the hole is Miles, played by Bill Pullman's son, Lewis. Even though his flashback/origin story comes late in the film, his dark secrets are worth waiting for.
Talk to your kids about ...
Which of the characters would you say are good people? How can you tell? Are some characters likable even if they've done bad things or have a dark past?
Have you ever had a big secret? Would you ever share it? Why or why not?
For kids who love thrills
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
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.