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 empowering documentary, while not perfect, has a strong positive message about building young girls' confidence. The girls at the center of the action are shown trying to shed their feelings of disenfranchisement, and all of the adults who surround them -- particularly the women -- do their best to support them. There's little iffy language ("idiot" is about as strong as it gets) and no sexual content, drinking, or drug use. That said, the girls do talk frankly about their sad and/or dark feelings at times.
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What's the story?
Forget archery and macrame: At Rock 'n' Roll Camp, girls wail on guitars, scream song lyrics into mics, and find a way to express themselves (musically and otherwise) in just one week. It's a confidence-building exercise and a potent one at that. Tracking a handful of campers -- including Laura, a Korean girl with a penchant for death metal who craves connection, and Misty, a veteran of foster care and gang life -- GIRLS ROCK! explores the transformative power of making music. And not just any kind of music, but genres like rock and metal that are usually identified with the opposite sex.
Is it any good?
Empowering, insightful, and, at times, deeply heart wrenching, this documentary should be seen by every girl who's ever doubted her capabilities or yearned to feel like she belongs. (And who hasn't?) It's dispiriting but also illuminating to watch the campers navigate social circles with the bravado that so many girls put on to mask a fear of rejection. Interspersed with camp footage are statistics that appall and educate; in music videos, for instance, only 22 percent of performers are women, and they're five times more likely than men to be dressed (or, rather, barely dressed) in revealing clothing.
Girls Rock! clearly has a message. And it's a good one, but perhaps viewers don't need to be clocked in the head with it. The heavy-handed feeling detracts from the overall enjoyment -- filmmakers Arne Johnson and Shane King would have benefited from the light-but-deft touch used by the makers of Mad Hot Ballroom. Nevertheless, we'll take this over standard superficial piffle anytime. When the girls take to the stage in the end, we're ready to rock.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the campers' awkwardness and confusion. What does the camp -- and, by extension, music -- do for them? What about music allows the girls freedom of expression? Do any of them change for the better for having participated? If so, how? Can you think of other ways in which media can help kids (or people in general) feel better about themselves?
- In theaters: March 6, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: January 27, 2009
- Director: Arne Johnson
- Studio: Shadow Distribution
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Great Girl Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements and language.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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