A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie viciously satirizes human flaws, from being overly sensitive or selfish to greed and lust (and especially the way that advertising fills our lives). But it also makes the point that, despite all of our faults, human connection is still the most precious thing there is. Mention of "cancel culture."
Positive Role Models
Paul is an interesting character, but he frequently makes poor decisions, to varying degrees. Sometimes he just embarrasses himself, and other times he's beaten up or publicly disgraced. Most other characters demonstrate a kind of mob mentality, first embracing Paul, then spurning him.
The story centers on Paul, a White man; most of the rest of the focus is on his wife and teen daughters, who are also White. But the large supporting cast is somewhat diverse. Black actor Tim Meadows plays Paul's friend, who's the dean of the college, and Paul's students represent a wide range of ethnicities. Strong/powerful female characters (all White) include two powerful female writers/journalists who meet with Paul and the marketing team that tries to leverage his fame into fortune.
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Violence & Scariness
Scary nightmare, with the main character running in an exaggerated manner and charging at a dreaming girl. Adult bashes teen's head with hammer; lots of blood. Man strangles young woman, slams her against wall. Strangling different woman with rope. Main character shot with arrows, bloody wounds. Woman's hand smashed in slamming door, lots of blood. Light fixture falls on man's head, leaving a gaping, bleeding wound. Blood-covered "tall man" stalks, attacks victim in nightmare. Main character has injured, bandaged face. He's hurt in a car accident, with some blood. Bloody face. Bloody mouth. Character pulls out bloody tooth. Bugs on face. Hooded figure threatens with knife. Dead dog, with buzzing flies. Jump scares. Tantrum, throwing things around room. Arguing. Character chokes on food. Dialogue about cutting off toes and eating them. Dialogue about suicide. One character spits on another's food.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Awkward seduction scene includes kissing, a woman unbuckling a man's pants, and a man prematurely climaxing (nothing visible). Strong sex-related dialogue. Sex dreams, shown in quick flashes, with touching between a woman's legs and a woman shown atop a man, moaning in pleasure.
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Language isn't constant but includes several uses of "f--k" and occasional uses of "s--t," "a--hole," "cum," "penis," "shut up," "stupid," "loser," "brats."
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Products & Purchases
Character is offered a deal to advertise Sprite soda, and the brand name is mentioned many times. Kawasaki mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Social drinking in bar: wine, martini. Wine at dinner.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dream Scenario is a surreal satirical comedy about an average college professor (Nicolas Cage) who suddenly, randomly begins appearing in other people's dreams. Expect several scary and/or unsettling nightmare sequences with attacks, strangling, bashing with blunt objects, shooting with arrows, etc. There are also bloody wounds, injuries, threats, and more. The script includes passages of pretty explicit sex-related dialogue and/or sexual situations, an awkward attempt at seduction, plus some flashes of a passionate sex act. Language isn't frequent but includes many uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "a--hole," and more. Characters drink wine with dinner and socially in a bar. The movie isn't always an easy watch, but it's likely to be rewarding for adventurous viewers. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Taking a page from Charlie Kaufman's bleak, surreal human-condition comedies, this movie sustains its interesting idea until the very end and benefits from Cage's fearless performance. Written and directed by Norwegian-born Kristoffer Borgli, Dream Scenario does things right by never explaining why this Paul Matthews/dream phenomenon is happening -- or what it's supposed to mean. We're left to experience the effects of it, to explore it, emotionally, without worrying about details.
It's not always an easy journey. Paul is as socially awkward as they come, always speaking too much when silence would be more effective or trying to assert himself at the wrong times and failing. He's also drastically insecure, taking nearly every small thing as a personal criticism. However, like Beau Is Afraid (whose director, Ari Aster, is a producer here), the movie isn't an attack on Paul himself, but rather a satire of the vain, fickle, unsympathetic world that made him. (The cynical epilogue supports this idea.) Yet by the end, Dream Scenario leaves viewers with the thought that, despite all of our faults, human connection is still the most precious thing there is.
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.