By James Rocchi,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Movie based on anime series has lots of martial arts action.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Like other epic fantasy films, the movie's messages are generally positive: Have faith in yourself, you can do anything, willpower can triumph over anger, and so on. But whether kids will absorb that amid all the high kicks and karate chops is another matter. One character is a thief, but he's presented, briefly, as more of a lovable brigand a la Han Solo. There are several strong female characters.
Violence & Scariness
Constant martial arts action, with more emphasis on ducking, dodging, and diving than on brutality and bloodshed. Fights and scuffling, and two blodless deaths (one of which is reversed). Some futuristic sci-fi gunplay, but no impacts or blood. There's also lots of energy bolt hurling/combat and combat with martial arts weapons -- throwing stars, staffs, etc. When supernatural beings are cut in two, they regenerate before being hurled into lava. A martial artist is attacked with metal rods; he dodges the blows so adroitly that his attackers only hurt themselves.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mild kissing; some flirting, cleavage, and sexual tension.
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Words include "hell," "damn," "crap," "fart," "sucks," "oh my God," and an incomplete use of "s--t."
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Products & Purchases
No real-world brands are mentioned, but the movie is an adaptation of the popular anime/manga series, so in a sense, the whole thing is an ad for the Dragonball franchise (which includes plenty of products).
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this live-action adaptation of the popular anime/comic book/video game series has lots of martial arts action. There's not much blood, but expect plenty of fighting, weapons (throwing stars, staffs, futuristic guns, etc.), and even a couple of deaths (though one is reversed). Characters also flirt and kiss and use some mildly salty language ("damn," "hell," and the like). And while there isn't any obvious product placement in the movie, the film itself could be considered one big ad for all the existing Dragonball merchandise out there.
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What's the Story?
Raised by his kindly grandfather, Goku (Justin Chatwick) doesn't know where his mom and dad are -- but he's been told that when he's 18, all will be revealed. Unfortunately, that birthday coincides with the evil alien warlord Piccolo's (James Marsters) escape from thousands of years of bondage in search of seven spheres of power -- Dragonballs. According to his grandfather, Goku must hurry to gather the Dragonballs with the aid of a martial arts master (Chow Yun-Fat) a tech-savvy entrepreneur (Emmy Rossum), a rogue (Joon Park), and his high-kicking dreamgirl (Jamie Chung) ... before Piccolo does.
Is It Any Good?
Parents will definitely zone out during DRAGONBALL EVOLUTION, if only because it's nothing they haven't seen a thousand times already. The plot and characters feel lifted wholesale from other, better fantasy epics like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, and the normally welcome presence of Yun-Fat is not, regrettably, enough to make the proceedings fun for grown-ups.
That said, there's a strong chance kids will love it; the story is easy to follow, and there's plenty of bloodless mayhem to keep things moving through the mercifully brief running time. Also to the film's credit? A slightly more evolved sense of gender equity than most kids' action films (there are plenty of strong female characters who are more than just eye-candy or romantic interests). Dragonball Evolution will impress young fans, but anyone older than 10 who doesn't already know and love the source material will find it a chore -- and a bore.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why kids want to see the movie -- is it because of the specific story or because it's part of the Dragonball franchise?
Why do you think the filmmakers chose to make a live-action movie instead of an animated one?
Does any of the violence seem more serious because the characters are real people? Why or why not?
- In theaters: April 10, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: July 28, 2009
- Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Emmy Rossum, Justin Chatwin
- Director: James Wong
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of action/violence and brief mild language
- Last updated: February 25, 2023
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