A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bodied is a dramedy produced by Eminem about a white student (Calum Worthy) in Berkeley who drops into the world of underground battle rap in Oakland. The film savagely attacks all manner of stereotypes -- racial, sexual, social/cultural -- and isn't afraid to go to uncomfortable places. Expect lots of strong, graphic language throughout, including "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word, and much more. A brief sex scene includes naked breasts, there are a couple of minor acts of violence (as well as guns being brandished), and characters smoke and drink throughout.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In BODIED, white Berkeley student Adam (Calum Worthy) drops into the fiercely competitive world of battle rapping in Oakland. He's researching his thesis about the evolution of the "N" word in rap and has somehow enlisted local rap legend Behn Grymm (Jackie Long) to help. But Adam is no tourist; though sheltered and bookish, he's intelligent and quick-witted enough to suddenly find what may be his calling as a battle rapper.
Is it any good?
This Eminem-produced dramedy is an awesome shot of inappropriateness and irreverence, mercilessly skewering every target in sight. Often hilarious, Bodied simply doesn't care what viewers' expectations of the genre are; it really doesn't give a good golly gosh what you think of its attitudes and language or even its characters. It plunges viewers into some of the uglier aspects of rap culture (racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc.), and then throws cold water on the holier-than-thou dissection of the same topic by ivory-tower types. Then it "flips the script" again and again to savagely lampoon pretty much everyone. All manner of stereotypes take a beating, usually in ornate, jam-packed verses. But the script -- by actual battle rapper Alex Larsen -- isn't just about the hyper-verbal skirmishes and sneering at social conventions that are part of battle rap; it's also about sneering at cinematic conventions. It's unpredictable and unafraid. The movie's arc is like a funhouse take on A Star Is Born, if Lady Gaga's character were something of a tool. You might scoff at the potential emotional impact of a rap battle, but the film builds so effectively to the turning-point clash that it's genuinely tense and painful.
The secret winner of all this battling, though, may be casting director Judy Cook, who pretty much never misses in assembling a cast of largely unknown sharpshooters. As Adam's rapper friends, Shoniqua Shandai, Walter Perez, and Jonathan Park are each memorable. Battle rapper Dizaster is an intimidating presence as the sort-of villain. Worthy is excellent as a bookworm who rises by honing his previously hidden gift for tearing into people. But the strongest impression is made by Long as Adam's mentor, whose ugly secret is his humanity. Long channels an Old West gunslinger who's seen it all and knows that taking lives can haunt you; he's a powerful presence. Bodied is one of the best rap movies since 8 Mile.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the lengths to which battle rappers go to insult each other. They ridicule each other's families, appearances, race, gender, sexuality, weaknesses -- anything they can. Is it OK? Why or why not?
Racist and sexist attitudes are everywhere in Bodied -- yet several of the characters involved disavow those attitudes once they're out of competition. Does that change the impact of hearing the harsh things they say?
Have you heard the term "cultural appropriation"? How does that come into play here? Is it a valid criticism always? Often? Sometimes? Never?
- In theaters: November 2, 2018
- Cast: Calum Worthy, Jackie Long, Anthony Michael Hall
- Director: Joseph Kahn
- Studios: Neon, YouTube Originals
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong language and sexual content throughout, some drug use and brief nudity
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