A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Boyz n the Hood is the 1991 directing debut from John Singleton. Violence permeates almost every aspect of life in South Central Los Angeles. Guns are prominent, and several shootings are shown with blood and bloody wounds but not much other gore. Profanity is almost nonstop, with "f--k," the "N" word, "s--t," and sexist slurs are frequent (women are constantly referred to as "bitches," "hos," and "hoochies"). A couple of sex scenes show a single breast, otherwise there are a few deep kisses, one with tops open. Characters are almost always shown holding large bottles of malt liquor. Many background characters smoke, and Tre's father smokes frequently. Doughboy buys drugs and a minor character almost always has a pacifier. The success and panache of N.W.A. and a young Ice Cube may spark teen interest, and parents may be concerned that Boyz glorifies a "gangsta" lifestyle. It doesn’t, but it will spark a lot of thought in older teens ready to tackle some of society’s biggest problems.
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What's the story?
BOYZ N THE HOOD starts out in 1984, when 10-year-old Tre gets suspended from school for fighting. His mother decides to send him to live with his father in another part of South Central Los Angeles, where hopefully a better school and a role model for responsibility will keep him from further trouble. Fast forward to 1991, and Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and his friends Doughboy (Ice Cube) and Ricky (Morris Chestnut) are looking toward the future while just barely holding on in the middle of a violent world riddled with drugs and alcohol. Will football be Ricky's ticket out? What about college for Tre? And will Doughboy's code of loyalty bring justice to a tragic loss, or will it trap him in an endless cycle of violence?
Is it any good?
John Singleton takes a powerfully unflinching and intimate look at the many problems facing America's inner cities. Race, economic opportunity, access to education, violence, drugs, society's indifference, and more form the kaleidoscopic, chaotic backdrop to examining how three young men adopt different strategies to cope with day-to-day struggles. The cast is fantastic (especially Ice Cube, who was a revelation at the time in a break-out role). The characters are compelling, and Singleton ably brings the audience to the breaking point right along with them.
The pace falters a bit when the movie pauses a couple of times to put the issues these kids face into a broader context, becoming a little stilted and preachy. But it's a sermon we should all hear. Older teens who can put the mature and graphic content and negative examples in context, and who are ready to take on some of society's biggest problems, will find a lot of food for thought here.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the strong language in Boyz n the Hood, especially the "N" word, and the way women are referred to. What do you think those words mean to the characters who use them? When is it OK, or not OK, to have profanity in movies?
Many characters are almost always shown with a bottle of malt liquor in their hands. Why do they drink so much? How does alcohol (and drugs and smoking) contribute to problems in areas like South Central?
Why doesn't Tre fall into the same cycle of violence as Doughboy? What can we do as a society to help put an end to it?
How are the movie's themes still relevant today?
- In theaters: July 2, 1991
- On DVD or streaming: July 14, 1998
- Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburne
- Director: John Singleton
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: Language, violence, and sensuality
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