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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dude is a 2018 coming-of-age dramedy about four teen girls trying to make sense of their lives in the weeks before high school graduation. The movie was released by Netflix on "4/20," and much of the marketing is centered on how much marijuana the four lead characters smoke. While there definitely is a lot of weed smoking -- as well as ingesting it in other forms, such as "weed mint strips," and plenty of weed-themed puns like "Donkey Bong" and "Jon Bong Jovi," there's also a lot of drinking and some drug-taking as well. The drinking leads to consequences much worse than hangovers: The lead character is raped at a party by an extremely drunk boy. When not talking about being stoned or wanting to be stoned, the four lead characters talk a lot about sex and wanting to have sex. The lead character is shown having sex with a boy (brief nudity of her breasts) -- intercourse and then oral sex. Another lead character, after flirting with the librarian of the school, runs off to the girls' restroom to masturbate and is shown from the waist up engaging in the act. In addition to the rape scene, a large part of the overall story concerns how the lead character's boyfriend was killed in a car accident the year before, and the grieving process for the boy's family (his sister is one of the four lead characters).
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What's the story?
In DUDE, when not getting high on weed, going to parties, and asking the question, "Where the d--k at?" four teen best friends -- Lily (Lucy Hale), Chloe (Kathryn Prescott), Amelia (Alexandra Shipp), and Rebecca (Awkwafina) -- are counting down the days left until they can graduate from their blissed-out Los Angeles alternative high school while also dreading what the future holds for them and their friendships. The year before, Chloe's brother, Thomas, (who was also Lily's boyfriend) died in a car accident, and even during the best of times, his tragic passing hangs over all of them as they struggle to make sense of all the impending change staring them in the face. As Lily tries to focus on having as much fun as possible with her friends, she also struggles with the idea of losing Chloe when Chloe decides to stay closer to home for college rather than following Lily to college life in New York City. But through the good times and bad, through crushes and hookups with younger and older boys and men, these four must find a way to maintain their close friendships beyond high school.
Is it any good?
This is an ambitious coming-of-age dramedy, despite being marketed as more of a "stoner comedy." While there are moments that could make it a stoner comedy, that's actually not the dominant aspect to the movie. It's what makes Dude so ambitious but also confusing. Sometimes it's a movie where four teen girls living in LA sit around swimming pools getting high or being hung over while saying things like, "Ugh. F--k. I want froyo," and accidentally getting the family dog baked on weed mint strips before going out to clubs to party and hook up with boys. At other times, it moves into intense melodrama on themes like sexual assault, the untimely death of a peer, and parents who ghosted on their families. While there are plenty of coming-of-age movies that have managed to strike the right balance between raunchy comedy and the difficult issues common to the late teen years, there's a sense with Dude of trying too hard to be all these things.
Perhaps it wants to be Dazed and Confused meets Girls meets My So-Called Life meets The Breakfast Club meets any number of 1980s raunchy teen sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll comedies. At its best, Dude is a welcome addition to the above, despite its flaws. The acting, in spite of it being entirely 20-something beautiful actors playing teenagers (for all the trials these characters face, acne clearly isn't one of them), is excellent. And Jack McBrayer, in a cameo as a hippie teacher, steals the scene in what might be the funniest part of the movie. There's a lot of good to this, and the ambition deserves and earns respect, but the extremes between tragedy and comedy, coupled with a too-convenient ending, stand in the way of a good movie being great.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about coming-of-age movies. How does Dude compare to other movies in which teens struggle to make sense of the changes happening inside and around them?
How did the movie portray drug and alcohol use? Did it seem realistic or did it seem over-the-top and glamorized for entertainment's sake? Were there consequences?
Traditionally, raunchy coming-of-age movies center on teen boys who go to parties, take drugs and alcohol, and try to find girls to have sex with. How is this movie different? How are girls and women usually portrayed in movies like these?
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