A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Shows power of teamwork and perseverance. We're all capable of doing great things, but we also still have much to learn.
Positive Role Models
Troy's intelligence and computer savvy gain respect and admiration of his teachers, his administrators, and his mother (although they all keep him grounded). He's given responsibility of running an entire company. Women are represented in leadership roles at a video game company (known as a male-dominated field). Positive, diverse representation across race, gender, ability.
Violence & Scariness
A close-up of a punch briefly shows blood spurting (it's implied the recipient deserved it). Brief image of first-person shooter video game with close-up on a gun.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Romantic interest between teens. One kiss. Brief image of female video game avatar in cleavage-revealing costume.
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Language includes "crap," "hell." Someone starts to say "s--t" before being cut off. Teacher makes a joke about getting A's and F's for grades, saying he's "crazy AF."
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Products & Purchases
Product placement includes Dell Computers and Red Bull.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A joke about people playing so many video games in college that they didn't do drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Hero Mode is a tween-friendly comedy about teamwork set in the world of video gamers. While it's not particularly well made, it's unexpectedly funny and will be enjoyable for video game-loving kids who appreciate a story about a teen whose mother truly believes in him. Characters and cast are inclusive across gender, race, age, and ability lines. One particular standout is a loving, involved single mom who's also a well-respected leader in the gaming industry and is managing her multiple sclerosis. The main character is a whiz at creating code but, when given the chance to lead a company, finds he doesn't actually have the management skills to do it effectively. His situation sends kids the worthy message that they're capable of doing great things, but it also gently suggests that they still have much to learn. Iffy content includes a punch in the face (with a bit of blood), a kiss, and some mild swearing ("crap," "hell"). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This "kids can" comedy should entertain most tweens, although parents may find the amateur filmmaking trip-ups frustrating and annoying. The script may not be amazing, but it will likely make you laugh -- largely thanks to expert delivery by a supporting cast of comedic actors whose faces you'll probably recognize, even if you don't know their names (but in case you do: Mary Lynn Rajskub, Kimia Behpoornia, Erik Griffin, Jim O'Heir, Nelson Franklin, Bobby Lee). The film is full of things that many kids will spark and relate to, like the video game environment, an adult game designer (Sean Astin) who's still dealing with his dad berating him about games being a waste of time, and the feeling of wanting and trying to help but then screwing things up. The situation also offers up something that lots of kids crave: parental trust and respect. Troy's intelligent, capable mom is in a pinch with work stuff, and she trusts Troy to take the ball and run with it. And when he gets this massive opportunity, he throws all of his energy into it -- but quickly starts to realize that suddenly being put in charge doesn't mean you know how to be in charge. This combo of lessons is likely due to the fact that the film is a group effort by the Carpenter family: They all created the story, dad Jeff put it into screenplay form, mom Marcy produced, and son Chris stars.
Where Hero Mode falls apart is in production quality: It has poor sound quality and mixing, terrible editing, and below-average cinematography. That said, the weak production elements are somewhat offset by bold, creative visual effects. And while the leads don't shine in their roles, Sorvino's presence and Astin's warm up the entire journey. Viewers who are gamers will get an extra delight: The film has cameos by YouTubers who shape the gaming world, including MatPat and Scott the Woz. The filmmakers succeed in their quest to create a true family film, one that's appropriate and entertaining for tweens and up. While it's certainly not an ultimate high scorer, it's a cute comedy that's bountiful in rewards.
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.
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