A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Invites audiences to express empathy for its main character, a boy on the autism spectrum. Shows difficulties that come up in family relationships affected by autism, but also the beauty. Also deals with bullying, offers a positive (if slightly implausible) solution.
Positive Role Models
Oliver is a nuanced representation of a person on the autism spectrum; although some cruelly treat him as an outcast, he also clearly has genuine thoughts and feelings. He's a somewhat passive character in this story -- things happen to him more often than he makes things happen -- but it's easy to feel empathy for him. The parents are more troubled, flawed characters dealing with real-life stressors, but the mother sacrifices herself to save Oliver.
Violence & Scariness
Children in peril, terrified. Scary stuff/visual effects. Scary monster. Jump scares. Bullies pick on the main character (one grabs his phone and throws it). Character in a car wreck (only squealing brakes heard); later, the character is shown lying in a hospital bed with his leg in a cast. Characters smash light bulbs, screens, various devices.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The married couple seems to be having relationship troubles; one sleeps in bed, the other sleeps on the couch.
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Infrequent language includes a few uses of "s--t," plus "hell," "boner," "loser," and "freak."
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Products & Purchases
SpongeBob SquarePants is shown many times on screens and TV monitors, and the theme song is hummed; the character is something that Oliver enjoys and it helps calm him down. Fortnite is mentioned.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Come Play is a horror movie about Oliver (Azhy Robertson), a boy on the autism spectrum who comes upon an ebook about "Larry," a lonely monster who wants a friend. Despite a few small story flaws, it's well made and just scary enough for younger teens and up. Expect to see kids in peril, scary visual effects, a monster, a few jump scares, bullies, and characters smashing things. A car crash is suggested through the sound of squealing brakes. Language includes a few uses of "s--t" (spoken by adult characters), as well as "hell," "boner," "loser," and "freak." Fortnite is mentioned, and SpongeBob SquarePants plays a fairly large part in the story: Oliver frequently watches scenes from the cartoons, and he hums the theme song to calm himself. His parents seem to be having relationship troubles, but sex isn't an issue. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Despite small hiccups in plot and character, this teen-friendly horror movie is a well-made production from top to bottom, and it effectively encourages strong empathy for its central characters. Written and directed by Jacob Chase, who adapted his own five-minute short film to feature length, Come Play resembles The Babadook in many ways, but it doesn't quite reach that film's league. It sometimes clouds the rules behind Larry; in one scene, Oliver smashes the lights in his room and causes Larry to fizzle out, even though Larry seems to have the power to douse the lights himself when he arrives. It also rushes friendships between Oliver and three other boys who start out by bullying him. But the dynamic between the family of three makes up for these things.
Young Robertson is remarkable as Oliver, while Jacobs' Sarah spends the most time with him and is tested by the impact of his autism. Her impatience leads to rash decisions, which drives the story. Meanwhile, Gallagher's Marty frequently works -- a night shift in a little booth in the center of a parking lot, a nice touch -- and gets to be the "fun" one at home. Come Play is bold enough to illustrate the strain in the family members' relationships, humanizing them. And it has a strong, vivid look that recalls the suburban habitats of E.T. and Poltergeist (Steven Spielberg's Amblin was one of the production companies). It also boasts tight, precise editing by Gregory Plotkin (Get Out), a chilling score by Roque Banos (Evil Dead), and a smart sound design, with Larry's slow, clicking footsteps an especially effective touch.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.