Candy Jar

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Candy Jar Movie Poster Image
Drama about debate team rivals has some cursing.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 92 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 7 reviews

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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

Working hard and doing your best can be fulfilling but shouldn't be the only priorities in life. Parents shouldn't impose their personal goals on their kids.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lona and Bennett are smart, hard-working, competitive, driven. They set high standards and goals for themselves and learn to accept not only failures, but also the possibility that meeting their own standards may not result in happiness. Kathy is the frank, straight-talking guidance counselor who advises that they'll have full lives whether or not they get into Ivy League schools.


A death.


Lona and Bennett kiss.


"F--k," "s--t," "ass," "butt," "d--k," "t-ts," "crap," and "damn."


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Candy Jar is a 2018 feature focusing on two overachieving high school seniors who have been competing and arguing since they were kids. Rivals in their school's debate club, they spend all their time prepping for debates, doing homework, studying for tests, and otherwise nerding out. They both set their early admission sights on two elite universities and fret over the prospect of not getting in. They have no social lives to speak of, and the movie questions whether their achievements have come at the expense of living full lives. A key character dies. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," and "t-ts."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 16-year-old Written byGreenMaple July 30, 2019

Predictable but good for stressed students

Found this while searching up, 'feel-good movies', and it delivered. The movie is worth its salt in my opinion mainly because of the themes and value... Continue reading
Parent of a 11 and 13-year-old Written byJulie St-F December 11, 2018

Sweet predictable plot, with a good message.

My 13 year-old daughter was very insistent that we watch this movie together (she'd already watched it by itself). The plot itself is super-conventional. T... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bytheaterkid321 May 4, 2020

Cheesy and Predictable

Overall, I think this is definitely a film for younger audiences and not necessarily enjoyable for teens as the main characters are not very relatable or likeab... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMoviegirl700 December 11, 2018

Stunning and heart warming!

I liked this movie-it was sweet and, as cheesy as it sounds, a good message about finding your voice when it feels like other people are controlling your life.... Continue reading

What's the story?

In CANDY JAR, Lona (Sami Gayle of TV's Blue Bloods) says she detests Bennett (Jacob Latimore of The Maze Runner), her chief rival in high school debating. The rivalry began before birth when their single moms ran against each other for high school class president. Bennett's mom, Julia (Uzo Aduba), was an overachieving nerd, and Lona's mom, Amy (Christina Hendricks), was the cheerleader who edged the nerd out. Ambitious Julia became a successful lawyer and state senator, and now Bennett has applied for early admission to his mom's alma mater, Yale. Amy is a widow and barista barely making ends meet, and Lona is trying to get a scholarship to Harvard. When their mothers' animosity helps get them kicked out of an individual debate competition, they are asked to work together to compete as a school team in the state championship -- a collaboration both consider unimaginable. Their wise guidance counselor Kathy (Helen Hunt) understands that they have more in common than they have in differences and that teaming up might help them actually have some fun. Once they get past their long-held animosity, they begin to enjoy working together -- a social outlet that encourages them to rearrange their priorities. At one point they kiss, suggesting that full-blown romance may be ahead. The benefits of college education versus the drawbacks of its accompanying financial burden is the subject of their debates, which raises arguments about bias against the poor, the unavailability of decent lower schools in impoverished neighborhoods, and a system that is rigged to keep the wealthy rich and the poor downtrodden.     

Is it any good?

Candy Jar is a solid movie about smart kids, and it does an especially great job reminding us all that life is short and that it's important to have fun. Full candy dishes in guidance counselor Kathy's office invite students to taste something sweet while doing the hard work of thinking about the future. This is the lesson that Lona and Bennett are invited to absorb from the wise and witty counselor, and that the audience is encouraged to embrace as well. Gayle is convincing as a girl too serious for her own good, and Latimore is charming as Bennett, a guy equally driven but open to the idea that loosening up could make life a little nicer. When death in their community shocks them, they seem ready to see how much more important friends and relationships are than "success" and "achievement."


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the amount of pressure high school kids put on themselves to perform well and get into elite colleges. What do you think are the ingredients of living a happy life? Do you think going to a highly ranked school or going to college at all are prerequisites to happiness?

  • How do you define success in life? Does how much money you make determine your success, or are there other standards of judgment?

  • In Candy Jar, Lona talks about the difference between facts and anecdotal life experience. What are some life experiences from which you can draw factual conclusions about life in general? What are some experiences that only tell you about yourself?

  • Jasmine talks about the many ways in which minorities are boxed out of high achievement and access to a decent education. Do you think wealthier citizens and communities have an obligation to offer good education to the disadvantaged? How might a better educated general population improve society as a whole?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love school stories

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