A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Barely Lethal is a star-studded spy comedy featuring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Alba, and Hailee Steinfeld (of True Grit fame). Though it's about training kids to be assassins, the film is comedic, not graphic. There are a lot of fight scenes and weapons (including grenades, guns, and knives), but the violence is slapstick and over the top, not scary. Still, there's a lot of innuendo -- including many jokes about genitalia -- and talk of sex, some drinking, and a few references to drugs. There's also quite a bit of swearing ("f--k" once, "bitch," "ass," and the like many times), making this comedy best for teens and up. Fans of classic teen movies will enjoy the many references to favorites such as The Breakfast Club and Clueless, though they may be less pleased with a few obvious product placements for fast-food brands.
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What's the story?
Number 83 (Hailee Steinfeld) is an orphan who's been trained from childhood to be an assassin, and she's at the top of her class, even if what she really wants is a normal life. While on a mission to take out the villain Knox (Jessica Alba), 83 decides to fake her own death and take on a new identity as Megan, a foreign exchange student from Canada. But while Megan knows how to take out any opponent with a pen, she's not quite sure how to navigate the social hierarchy of high school, even with a little help from some classic teen movies. As she starts to get the hang of hanging out with the cool kids, she soon realizes that her old life isn't so easily left behind and she'll need to use her training to keep her newfound friends and family safe.
Is it any good?
Although it tries really hard to cleverly poke fun at all the clichés you usually find in teen movies, this sometimes-funny comedy ultimately falls victim to them. Though we see that not all high school kids fit the stereotypes, the plot insists on sticking with tired formulas such as the love triangle among the girl, the nerd, and the most popular boy in school. BARELY LETHAL is often laugh-out-loud funny, but the characters are underdeveloped and one-dimensional, and most of the plot points feel like add-ons that are never fully developed. And with the movie continually referencing classics such as The Breakfast Club, it sets itself up for failure from the beginning.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the teen movie genre. Why do you think there are so many movies made about being in high school?
Megan really wants to have a traditional high school experience. Do you think there's a universal high school experience? Do you think it's important to have that experience?
What's your favorite teen movie? Why is it your favorite?
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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.
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