A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
High school students suffer from depression, egotism, and fear; adults are less than helpful.
Violence & Scariness
Bully menaces Charlie repeatedly. Kids make fight DVDs that show a bully beating Charlie and other students; includes images of bloody faces, kicks, and hits. A girl describes her father's threat to kill himself with a .38. Students' demonstration against surveillance cameras on campus leads to punching and scuffling. Principal holds a gun; Charlie assaults him to stop a seeming suicide, then they talk.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kisses between the primary couple, some in close-up, lead to Charlie's "first time" (the movie cuts from kissing to a post-sex shot showing his naked chest; he announces his loss of virginity at a party, and kids cheer). Mention of porn on the Internet. Some sexual language ("get your nana pierced," "p---y," "hooch," "vagina").
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Several uses of "f--k," as well as "s--t" (some with "bull"), "bitch," "hell," "goddamn," and "ass." Other colorful phrases include "this school blows," "total tool," "I will take a massive steaming dump on your life," "bite me," and "you're a dick."
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Products & Purchases
The Clash poster in teenager's room.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The movie has a thematic focus on drugs and alcohol: Mother drinks (wine) repeatedly and is sometimes visibly drunk. High school students smoke marijuana (and use slang like "roach"). Charlie is prescribed medication by his psychiatrist (Ritalin, Xanax, Zoloft, Prozac), then starts selling his pills to classmates. Reference to dropping acid; the principal drinks. News that a student overdosed on sedatives casts a pall on the school. Mother refers to college drug use; principal discusses his alcoholism. Frequent cigarette smoking by adults and high school students (Murphey in particular).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this mature comedy about high school students is full of images of and references to pills, other drugs, beer, and liquor (all of which are used by the students, who also smoke). Characters discuss suicide, depression, and troubled parent-child relationships. There are images of brutal "fight videos" made by the students, a gun wielded by a potential suicide, and a raucous student demonstration. The hero loses his virginity (off screen, after some kissing scenes), and there's some strong language, including "f--k." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Yet another movie-styled high school smirker, Charlie is surely clever, but he's also unoriginal. While he takes his search for identity/family/community/popularity to topical extremes (selling pills, offering psychobabbley counsel, and filming homemade fight videos), he follows a familiar coming-of-age course that's better suited for adult viewers familiar with his cinematic precursors than those currently in the throes of high school themselves. The contrivance of Charlie's story, the convenient ineptness of his mother, and the rallying of his peers don't so much extol the virtues of public education -- or even the wondrous discoveries of adolescence -- as they rehearse clichés (will Charlie lose his virginity as he so desires? Guess!).
This isn't to say that particular moments in the film don't resonate with a kind of energy or wit (particularly the featuring Downey, who brings a perfect pitch of weariness, frustration, and hope to his exchanges with the students). But as Charlie must learn his own limits and the value of being "himself," the film turns increasingly predictable.
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Our Editors Recommend
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