A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this relentless action adventure inspired by the '80s cartoon/toy line is filled with extreme (albeit minimally bloody/gory) violence. Kids will want to see it because they're the ones who play with the toys, but there's no end to the parade of characters who are slashed, stabbed, shot, or dispatched in various other ways. (Unlike in the similarly inspired Transformers movies, most of the victims here are people, not machines). There's also a lot of potentially scary medical imagery -- needles, scalpels, painful-looking procedures, and more -- and some intermittent strong language (including "s--t"). Hasbro, the company that makes G.I. Joe toys, co-produced the movie -- meaning that the story doesn't contain product placement so much as the product placement contains a story.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Set in a hypothetical near-future, G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA pits a multinational, best-of-the-best fighting force ("the Joes") against a high-tech, highly motivated terrorist group intent on shattering civilization with nanotechnology-based armaments that can devour metal nearly instantly. As Duke (Channing Tatum) -- the Joes' newest recruit -- gets closer and closer to the evil plotters, he realizes that one of them, the amoral Baroness (Sienna Miller), is actually his long-lost ex-fiancee.
Is it any good?
Too cartoony and childish for grown-up action fans and too violent and grisly for kids, G.I. Joe is an action film whose glossy shine is matched only by its glib cynicism. Combining the globe-trotting style of modern techno thrillers and the cartoony, bloodless, high-tech look of modern effects blockbusters with an unhealthy dose of '80s nostalgia for the original cartoon, G.I. Joe feels like it's trying -- incredibly hard -- to be all things to all people. And so it fails to be anything to anyone. Tatum tries to invest his between-fights dialogue with emotional meaning and sincerity, but it's like trying to stuff vitamins into cotton candy -- futile and messy.
Director Stephen Sommers proved that he could craft decent PG-13 action with the Mummy films; he also proved, with Van Helsing, that he can let his love of effects triumph over the storytelling required to make a real film. Many (infact, almost all) of G.I. Joe's effects-heavy action sequences have the plastic, weightless, meaningless computer-generated emptiness of a video game. And while the costumed, code-named, stylized characters are faithful to the original cartoon, they aren't especially engaging or real beyond their fidelity to the source material.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. Despite dozens of on-screen deaths, the movie earned a PG-13 rating -- do you think that's accurate? Do bloodless deaths have less impact than gorier ones?
It's also worth talking about the consumerism side of things. What do kids make of the fact that this is a movie based on a line of toys? Is the movie's goal to sell more toys? If not, what is it?
Why do you think the movie takes a fantasy-oriented approach to both violence and terrorism? Does it make those issues any less scary?
- In theaters: August 7, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: November 3, 2009
- Cast: Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller
- Director: Stephen Sommers
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: strong sequences of action violence and mayhem throughout
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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