A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Charm City Kings centers on an inner-city teen named Mouse (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) who dreams of joining Baltimore's Midnight Clique biker crew. Reflecting the reality of what happens in many disenfranchised communities, there’s some violence, blood is shed, and a young life is lost. There's also strong language, including the "N" word, "f--k," "bitch," "ass," and more. One young man badly beats another, and there’s some drug dealing. Two consenting teenagers share a gentle kiss. The movie has themes of loyalty, positive mentorship, and overcoming the consequences of making iffy decisions. The balance between the beauty of youth and the harshness of inner city life give this film its impact. It offers a positive counter-stereotype in its depiction of young Black boys and adult men who express emotion and aren't afraid to cry.
What's the story?
Directed by Angel Manuel Soto, CHARM CITY KINGS centers on 14-year-old Mouse (Jahi Di'Allo Winston). What Mouse wants most in the world is to be part of Baltimore's Midnight Clique dirt-bike crew. The crew is run by the infamous Blax (Meek Mill), who feels indebted to Mouse after an incident with Mouse's older brother goes horribly wrong. Mouse soon learns that every choice has its consequence, and that what looks good from the outside isn't always what it seems.
Is it any good?
This moving drama allows strong Black men to be both tough and vulnerable, and it offers space for disenfranchised inner-city kids to be innocent, wild, and free. It provides a non-judgemental glimpse into the real lives of Black kids, letting them make mistakes and have flaws, yet giving them the opportunity to decide to start over -- as seen most clearly in the character of Mouse (played with great subtlety and nuance by Winston). Charm City Kings is a candid look at the subculture of Black riding crews, showing how the freedom that accompanies "riding free"/without inhibition helps those who often feel trapped by systemic oppression. The film captures the softer side of the inner city in an empathetic way. Many of its nuances are intended for voices too often left out of mainstream narratives. Though not perfect, Kings deliberately serves as a form of agency for marginalized voices.
Under Soto's direction, and with a detailed script by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), the movie gives the frailty of Black boyhood a human face. As Blax, Mill does a wonderful job of showing that you can be imperfect and still be a mentor for others, while William Catlett's Detective Rivers shows the benefits of walking the straight and narrow path. Donielle T. Hansley Jr. is fearless in the role of Lamont. His character personifies the narrow margins that many disenfranchised people have to negotiate: sink or swim, fight to survive and get money -- or die. And Kezii Curtis' Sweartagod is the perfect homage to Black boy joy and innocence. His portrayal of a happy, sensitive, fun sidekick is the perfect complement to the movie's adverturous trio of friends. This film will resonate with anyone who wants to get a genuine glimpse inside of the lives of inner city youth -- and the supportive adults in their lives who try to do their best to protect their kids and the kids of the community. Yes, there is some gun violence in this movie. But there are quiet, gentle, and beautiful moments. too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what life is like for children and teens growing up in the U.S.' inner cities. In what ways does systemic oppression affect the lives of many young children and adults living in urban environments?
How does the riding crew in Charm City Kings provide a sense of belonging? How do the members of the crew show compassion toward one another, if any? Are there any role models in this movie? What defines a role model, and do all role models have the same characteristics?
There are two adult male figures in Mouse's life. How are these men similar? How are they different? In what ways do they both show compassion and empathy toward Mouse? In what ways do these men communicate their respect and appreciation of Mouse?
- On DVD or streaming: October 8, 2020
- Cast: Teyonah Parris, Meek Mill, Jahi Di'Allo Winston
- Director: Angel Manuel Soto
- Studio: HBO Max
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy
- Run time: 125 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive language, sexual references and some violence
- Last updated: October 22, 2020
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