Breaking a Monster

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Breaking a Monster Movie Poster Image
Middle school metal band makes it big in revealing docu.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Dream big, and then persevere/work hard to make it happen. These kids did, and other people can, too. Offers a revealing look at the inside workings of the modern music industry and the unexpected side effects of sudden recognition/fame.

Positive role models & representations

The three boys in the band are talented and hard working, but they're still kids, and you can sense their frustration when dealing with very adult demands like talking to record company executives when they'd clearly rather playing video games or riding skateboards.

Violence

Some squabbling between band members, their parents, and their manager.

Sex

A middle schooler talks sweetly about the girl he likes.

Language
Consumerism

Many music-industry references, including YouTube, Sony Music, well-known music publications like Rolling Stone, music festivals like Coachella, and other recognizable brands. Many people use popular consumer products, including Mac computers, iPhones, and Coke.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Breaking a Monster is a documentary about three Brooklyn middle-schoolers who are vaulted to fame when a video of their heavy metal band goes viral. It's a revealing look at the inside workings of the modern music industry and the unexpected side effects of sudden recognition. Themes include perseverance/following your dreams, and there's not much in the way of iffy content, aside from some squabbling among the band mates, their parents, and their manager.

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What's the story?

At the start of BREAKING A MONSTER in 2014, Malcolm, Alec, and Jarad were just three middle-school students from Brooklyn in a heavy metal band who dreamed about making it big someday. But when a video of them jamming in Times Square went viral, they caught the attention of an L.A. manager and soon ended up on the West Coast talking to record executives. They quickly landed a huge recording contract -- and a gig at Coachella -- but sudden fame proved to have its downside, too. Breaking A Monster reveals the process that goes into making a band, and it's not always pretty.

Is it any good?

The band's name is Unlocking the Truth, which is especially apt for this documentary, as it goes behind the scenes of the music industry and its focus on product over great music. The executives talk about social media, branding, and which magazines to target, while the kids just want to be kids and play their music. They're not even old enough to drive, but they must sit through meeting after meeting, getting visibly irritated. It's no wonder they sometimes walk out in frustration.

They also have an up-and-down relationship with Alan Sacks, the L.A. manager who takes them under his wing and is determined to help them succeed. We can see Sacks getting fed up with the three young musicians when they start to act like, well, the middle-school students they are. Sure, they can be immature -- because they're kids. Still, they also have some surprisingly sharp observations, especially when they return to their old neighborhood and realize it will never be the same, that their newfound wealth has created a vast gulf between the boys they used to be and the people they are now. The narrative of sudden fame changing people in Breaking a Monster isn't especially surprising, but it's still worth watching how these kids deal with it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about being famous. How do the three kids in Breaking a Monster handle their newfound fame and wealth? Is it all great, or are there downsides?

  • What role did the internet play in the band's rise to recognition? Is it OK for kids to start their own YouTube channels?

  • How do the band members demonstrate perseverance? Why is that an important character strength?

  • What does the movie tell us about the record industry? Are the execs trying to promote the boys and their music, or are they trying to package them into a product to sell? At what age do kids really get marketing/advertising?

  • What do you think about the relationship between the band and their manager? Is he in it for the money, as one of the musicians' mom seems to think?

Movie details

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