A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents to know that Bravetown is a fish-out-of-water drama about a young New York City DJ who's court-ordered to move to small-town North Dakota after getting caught with drugs. A bit reminiscent of both Footloose and Step Up, the movie includes underage sexuality, substance use (cigarettes, pot, alcohol, and pills -- including an accidental overdose), and language (a few uses of "f--k" and "f--king"; same for "s--t," "a--hole," and "bulls--t"). The main sex scene happens early on (in a car, featuring a mostly clothed couple, though it's clear what's going on); the second half of the movie just has a couple of kisses. There's also a bit of violence, like when a small group of jocks beats up the main character, leaving him bloodied and bruised. The movie's themes get pretty serious -- war, post-war depression, parent-child reconnection, and grief -- and families sensitive to references to military deployments and war should note that both are major themes of the movie, since the town is best known for sending soldiers off to join the armed forces.
What's the story?
In BRAVETOWN, hotshot teen DJ Josh (Lucas Till) is the talk of the New York City club scene. But when he accidentally overdoses on pills, he's court-ordered to move in with his estranged father in North Dakota to fulfill treatment and therapy requirements. Bidding farewell to his single mother (Maria Bello), Josh unhappily arrives in North Dakota to live with his loner dad (Tom Everett Scott). At his new high school, Josh meets a friendly freshman, Tony (Jae Head), who tells him about his older sister Mary's (Kherington Payne) down-on-their-luck dance team. During a pep rally, Josh takes pity on the dancers and starts mixing music for them, leading to a collaboration for the upcoming state dance competition. As Josh gets to know Mary, who lost her other brother to war, he also attends mandatory sessions with his therapist, Alex (Josh Duhamel), who's also mourning the loss of a loved one.
Is it any good?
Bravetown is one of those movies that audiences will expect to go one way, and then it goes another. On the surface, it seems like a mix of Footloose (talented city boy with an edgy rep arrives in a conservative small town) and the Step Up franchise/Glee (a group of underdog performers hopes to win a big competition). But there are also incredibly serious themes about war, post-war depression, parent-child reconnection, and grief that compete with the lighter story about the prodigy DJ who helps the sad-sack dance team develop into a serious competitor overnight. Not that the whole thing needed to be all light or all heavy (Footloose, of course, was both), but the back-and-forth occasionally gets frustrating.
What makes the movie work is definitely the performances. The actors are great with the material, and they humanize their characters, who are all dealing with sadness. The always excellent Laura Dern plays Mary's severely depressed mom, who's so in denial about her older son's death that she can barely get out of bed. Duhamel is believable as Josh's clever, laid back therapist with a secret of his own, and Till may look more like a North Dakotan than a New Yorker, but he manages to keep Josh real without being too smug or snobbish. By no means a perfect film, Bravetown nevertheless has heart, and debut director Daniel Duran shows promise in managing an ensemble drama.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about fish-out-of-water stories. Why is it interesting to see a character try to adapt to a place they don't naturally fit in? Do you think contrasts are always this sharp in real life?
How does Bravetown portray teen drinking/drug use and sexuality? Are there realistic consequences? How much sexual content in media is appropriate for kids?
What's the movie's message about asking for help? How is the town's reputation for sending soldiers explored?
- In theaters: May 8, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: June 16, 2015
- Cast: Josh Duhamel, Lucas Till, Laura Dern
- Director: Daniel Duran
- Studio: Phase 4 Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, High School
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some language, drug use and brief sexuality
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