A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
When you find something that inspires you, it can change your life. Be careful about who you trust. Art and music are very powerful.
Positive Role Models
As depicted here, Elvis Presley was a well-meaning person who cared very much about those he loved and didn't let racism impact who he was or who he spent time with. He's a devoted son who treats those around him with respect. But drug abuse and unrelenting expectations eventually destroy him. He cheats while in committed relationships, falls under the sway of Col. Tom Parker, and suffers from self doubt. Parker is portrayed as a selfish, manipulative puppet master who didn't really care about anything other than himself. Priscilla is shown as smart and caring.
The Black musicians who influenced Elvis make many appearances in the supporting cast -- as does their struggle to achieve mainstream notice despite having immense talent. Elvis finds his way to music through a religious experience at a Black church and is depicted as feeling most at home among the Black folks he grew up alongside. Female characters are portrayed with compassion and some nuance, but they're all primarily seen through their relationship to Elvis (mother, girlfriend, wife). Young Elvis is called "fairy" because he wears eye makeup and bright colors, but this is portrayed negatively. In early scenes, Col. Tom Parker's carnival includes some stereotypically depicted "freaks."
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Death threats/aggressive fans. A concert riot shows chaos and police hitting individuals with batons. Elvis has several guns and shoots one while in an altered state. The assassinations of historical leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sharon Tate are referenced, and TV news footage of Robert Kennedy's murder is shown. Medical emergencies/collapses.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing. Sensual dancing. Sex is implied through images of women in lingerie on a bed and shoes on the ground. Some skimpy costumes. Elvis' wiggling/gyrations during his performances upset authorities and parents because it resulted in girls (and women and some men/boys) feeling sexual urges ... and throwing underwear on stage. He's referred to as "Elvis the Pelvis." Marriage and infidelity are part of the plot.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Language includes: "goddamn," "hell," "a--hole," "s--t," "sons of bitches," "bastard," and one "f--k." Insults include "bloodsucking old vampire" and "toad." "Fairy" used as a slur. Racist terms like "animalistic" and "voodoo devil music" are used to describe Elvis' dance moves and music, which were rooted in Black culture. "Negro" and "colored" are used.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Cadillac are seen and referenced on several occasions. Sun Records, RCA, NBC mentioned. Wonder Bread, Skippy, Saltines seen. Elvis lived lavishly and became a brand unto himself.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Pill-popping, morphine use, and needles -- as well as an enabling doctor -- are shown and discussed. It all leads to Elvis' drug dependency and is all portrayed negatively. Alcoholism is depicted through a character drinking vodka and beer; it winds up leading to her demise. Other characters also drink, and people smoke cigars, cigarettes, and a pipe.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Elvis is writer-director Baz Luhrmann's visually stylish musical biopic about The King of Rock 'n' Roll. As told through the perspective of Elvis' longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), it spends a lot of time on Presley's (Austin Butler) launch into superstardom, the business side of his time in the spotlight, and his Vegas residency in his later years. Much of the rest of his life is breezed through, including his marriage to Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge) and his time in Hollywood. Teens may be surprised to learn that authorities found Elvis' dance moves obscene; the movie also shows the racist attitudes of the 1950s and '60s. Vices of all kinds -- drinking, smoking, spending, gambling, and drug use -- bring different characters suffering and misfortune. Sex is suggested with shots of passionate kissing and lingerie-clad women in bed, and Priscilla walks around in a short nightie, revealing her butt cheeks. Elvis owns several guns and wields one while in an altered state; there's also a riot at a concert, some medical emergencies, mourning, and footage of historical assassinations. Language includes "goddamn," "hell," "s--t," and one instance of "f--k." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Trying to tell the life story of the biggest global superstar of all time in one sitting is challenging, if not unwise. Turning what could've been a trilogy into one film, it's almost as if writer/director Baz Luhrmann is asking, what if a whole movie was a montage? Elvis whips through major events in Presley's life, all clipped as tightly as if they were in a music video. For an artist whose ascent to success was a whirlwind, perhaps it was an artistic choice to depict it in a similar way to the audience. But then, when the party stops for Elvis, so does the action, and Luhrmann abruptly turns to traditional biopic storytelling as Elvis mounts his 1968 comeback. By that time, though, viewers' brains may be so hyperstimulated that the abrupt switch will make the rest of the movie's long running time feel unnecessarily slow.
Plus, telling the story through Parker's eyes creates a barrier to getting to know Presley. The musical powerhouse is infantilized, and the movie suggests that Parker's manipulations led to the demise of both Elvis and his beloved mother, Gladys (Helen Thomson). And Priscilla Presley (Olivia DeJonge) is portrayed more like a minor character than as the love of Elvis' life. Here, it feels like Elvis' real marriage was his partnership with Parker. Is this how Elvis would tell his story? It's hard to say, because after 2 1/2 hours, the superstar remains enigmatic, and too much is left unexplained. Still, Butler's performance is mesmerizing, the soundtrack is electric (many of Presley's songs are mixed in with those by other historically significant musicians, and the soundtrack includes plenty of modern tunes), and the idea that Elvis' lower-body wiggling was actually illegal is hysterical. Most of the central characters develop destructive habits -- but drugs, drinking, smoking, and gambling are never made to look fun, just a portal to misery. As an Elvis biopic, Elvis lacks. But as an exciting way for teens to get a taste of how "the good ol' days" weren't as "good" as some want to remember, it's ideal.
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.