A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Changeland is a dramedy about a man (Seth Green, also making his feature writing/directing debut) who travels with his best friend (Breckin Meyer) to Thailand to take stock of his life and his marriage. Expect quite a bit of social drinking, sometimes to excess (characters are quite happily tipsy or drunk). There's also brief pot smoking, someone gives a beer to an underage boy, a character mimes a hypodermic needle injection, and the words "heroin" and "cocaine" are heard in song lyrics. Language includes more than one use of "f--k," plus "s--t" and "a--hole." Characters flirt and kiss. A kickboxing match includes punching and fighting, and characters are mildly hurt. Dialogue includes references to dead parents and suicide. This is pretty well-worn plot territory, but the movie is very endearing, with three-dimensional, fully human characters.
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What's the story?
In CHANGELAND, it's Brandon's (Seth Green) wedding anniversary, but he suspects his wife is having an affair. He'd planned on surprising her with a trip to Thailand. Instead, he decides to invite his old friend Dan (Breckin Meyer) along. Dan seems to have it all figured out and encourages Brandon to take risks and think for himself. But Brandon seems stuck in his own head, overthinking everything and not very happy. Once in Thailand, a boat tour introduces the friends to tour guides Pen (Brenda Song) and Dory (Clare Grant). Later, free-spirited goofball Ian (Macaulay Culkin) takes them to a special kickboxing bar, where everything that Brandon's been struggling with comes to a head.
Is it any good?
Marking Green's feature writing and directing debut, this endearing dramedy explores its relaxing, lush visuals while contemplating an inert, introverted, but surprisingly relatable character. Many movies have been made about men who rediscover their humanity during a trip -- and/or thanks to outgoing friends -- but Changeland feels uncommonly honest, perhaps even brave. Green rolls the dice on a character who's indecisive and morose, and begins the movie staring into the middle distance as he makes his way to the airport. But Green's performance and filmmaking make Brandon feel three-dimensional.
At the same time, Meyer plays one of those characters who always seem to know what to say and do and yet also seem totally human. (Over the course of the movie, he examines some of his own hurts.) Perhaps the secret is that Green never overreaches. Like the serene camerawork that drinks in the scenery, the screenplay takes its time and lets feelings flow in natural-sounding dialogue. The movie's other secret is the delightful supporting cast; in a weaker film, they would seem like plot gimmicks, but here they all quickly and comfortably establish themselves as flawed, likable humans. Changeland is that rarity in independent cinema: a movie that eschews "quirkiness" for honesty.
Talk to your kids about ...
What's the friendship like between the two main characters? Do they communicate? Do they trust one another? Does their friendship improve during the story?
Can it be helpful to travel to a new place to soul-search? What can we find out about ourselves in new places?
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