A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although kids will definitely be interested in seeing this Will Smith superhero movie (thanks to both his presence and a massive marketing campaign), a definite tragic streak runs through it. That, along with the movie's other themes -- mortality, the meaning of love -- may prove too mature for young kids and tweens. There's also plenty of swearing (including an "F" word) and a fair amount of action/fantasy violence, including gunfire, cut-off hands, and Hancock himself yelling at kids and destroying buildings. That said, the movie also has a lot of heart (plus some good Will Smith comic moments) and isn't just your average popcorn flick. An unrated version of this DVD is available and contains a sex scene and some other material that do not appear in the original.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Although he's blessed with powers even Batman would envy -- he flies, can lift cars with one hand, and is bullet-proof -- John Hancock (Will Smith) is far from your typical superhero. As HANCOCK begins, he's passed out on a bench, skuzzy and surly and surrounded by empty liquor bottles. Even when he "helps," he wreaks more havoc, ripping up streets when he lands, knocking freeway signs down, and squabbling with people who are fed up with his shenanigans. So it's perfect timing that he meets up with compassionate publicist Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), who thanks Hancock for saving his life by making it his personal cause to refashion the superman's image. Ray's wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), isn't so sure it's a good idea. But could she have undisclosed reasons for wanting to maintain her distance?
Is it any good?
Surprising and original, Hancock hooks viewers within the first 10 minutes, when the movie makes it clear that you're in for a different kind of superhero movie. Who's ever seen a hero as churlish as Hancock? Fans of comic book-based films may initially be put off, but they should persevere, despite the liberties that director Peter Berg takes with the genre's fundamentals. At the very least, the special effects are superb. And just when you think you've got the movie figured out, you're handed another bolt from the blue, as the film metamorphoses from a somewhat typical Smith buddy comedy into an unexpectedly tragic and romantic film.
Hancock takes the usual superhero movie conventions and turns them on their head: Hancock doesn't just have a tragic past that compels him to do good -- a la Spider-Man -- but is himself tragic. He has no secret identity, but he has secrets he doesn't know. That, combined with strong performances from the stars (except for his propensity to squint too much, Smith manages to turn in a fairly understated performance, and Bateman's ease belies the talent that allows him to seem realistic within a fantastical frame), makes for an intellectually satisfying superhero movie. It takes a leap of faith, but ultimately it's worth the trouble.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why kids want to see this movie -- is it because of the story, or because of all the hype?
Discuss why Hancock is so distant and angry in the beginning of the movie. How are both Hancock the character and Hancock the movie different from and similar to other cinematic superheroes?
What would you say the movie's messages are?
How does Hancock change over the course of the film? What do he and Ray teach each other?
- In theaters: July 2, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: November 24, 2008
- Cast: Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Will Smith
- Director: Peter Berg
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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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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