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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that despite the Disney label and references to The Lion King, Beyoncé's Black Is King isn't made specifically for kids. Yes, its empowering messages and celebration of African culture will undoubtedly be encouraging and educational for young viewers, perhaps especially teenagers. But those messages are wrapped up in musical numbers that feature mature themes related to family, power, and death, as well as some risqué outfits and dancing and a few potentially scary images -- especially one sequence in which a young boy appears lost and in danger. "Damn" is said. Beyoncé fans and others are likely to flock to this film for the music, the elaborate costuming, the guest appearances, and the search for meaning, references, and symbolism in every word and image.
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What's the story?
Billed as a "visual album" that was written, directed, and executive produced by Beyoncé, BLACK IS KING offers a series of music videos linked together by common themes and recurring characters, ideas, and settings. Dialogue is pulled from The Lion King and elsewhere to construct vignettes that follow a young boy from infanthood on his search for identity. We see how family, community, ancestry, culture, fate, and self confidence all play a role in your life experience. Narration and lyrics instruct young Black people to stay true to themselves on their path, rely on their loved ones for support, and overcome setbacks and obstacles, including racism. Set in unspecified locations in Africa, the film's main message is to empower Black people to appreciate and take pride in their African heritage and culture.
Is it any good?
This visual album is a stunning tour de force. It would be hard not to appreciate the work that went into Black Is King, evidenced by the colossal list of collaborators in the end credits and Disney's touting of its year-long production across multiple continents. The effort is on full display in the finished musical numbers, with their detailed choreography featuring diverse casts, unique interiors, gorgeous exterior settings, and plenty of symbolism. And then there are Beyoncé's glamorous get-ups, dotingly filmed from every angle.
The film can easily be digested in pieces/multiple viewings, divvied up by musical numbers. Some of the most memorable come in the second half of the film. Black Is King also radiates labor of love. Beyoncé dedicates it to her son "and to all our sons and daughters," as well as "the Black diaspora across every continent," which has faced "insurmountable odds. You inspire the world." This expansive acknowledgement may explain why the film doesn't seem to want to be specific about African nations or cultures but is instead focused on a widely inclusive message of self worth and Black empowerment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the main messages of Black Is King. What are they? How do they apply to your own life?
What aspects of African culture did you recognize in the film's stories, settings, and wardrobes?
What connections did you notice between Black Is King and The Lion King?
Which song did you like best, and why? Were you familiar with any of the artists besides Beyoncé who appear here?
What character strengths are on display here?
- On DVD or streaming: July 31, 2020
- Cast: Beyoncé
- Directors: Emmanuel Adjei, Blitz Bazawule, Beyoncé
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Activism, Music and Sing-Along
- Character strengths: Gratitude, Perseverance
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: TV-14
- Last updated: August 13, 2020
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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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