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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Houdini is a four-hour miniseries about the historical figure Harry Houdini. The series realistically depicts his life and his tricks, many of which involve an element of dread and danger that may be too much for young or sensitive viewers. For instance, Houdini performs tricks in which he is suspended head-down in a tank of water, jumps into a small hole in an icy lake from a high bridge, and is shot point-blank in the face. Houdini comes out of all these capers unscathed, but waiting for the trick to end can be nerve-racking. There are a few four-letter words as well as many glimpses of Houdini's naked body, as he was generally strip-searched before his escapes (no body parts are shown). A scene takes place in a brothel, and there are some off-color references to handcuffs being used in a sexual way. Characters also drink and smoke on-screen.
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What's the story?
HOUDINI traces the rise and fall of America's most famous magician of all time. Born a humble Hungarian immigrant named Erik Weisz, Houdini (Adrien Brody) is dazzled by a street magician and decides to take up the mysterious arts himself. Soon after, he leaves home and apprentices with a traveling magician, learning the tricks of the trade. He starts performing escapes and is a "wild man" at the circus, where he meets and marries faithful wife Bess (Kristen Connolly). Together they travel the country as the tricks get wilder and the escapes more dangerous, as the ever-ambitious Houdini always seeks the limelight.
Is it any good?
As a portrait of a self-made man who won fame and glory as a result of his own hard work, daring, and talent (not to mention a hefty dash of showmanship), Houdini is a winner. It's the type of historical drama that parents will want kids to see (those who are old enough to not get upset and cry while watching Houdini struggle near death under the frozen surface of a river, that is). It's also twisted and bizarre enough that kids will want to watch. Houdini's escapes start out as simple jailbreaks and keep getting more and more dangerous until he's plummeting off bridges and getting buried alive.
Parents also will appreciate that Houdini (the real man and the on-screen one) is a man who loved and stuck by his wife, played by the charming Kristen Connolly, whom audiences may recognize as the Final Girl from The Cabin in the Woods. Houdini paints a realistic portrait of a long-lasting marriage, one that isn't perfect but endures nonetheless. The focus here, though, is mainly on Houdini as a tortured artist who wanted more, more, more -- until the very end.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why History chose to make a movie about this particular historical character. What is interesting about his life? Why is Houdini a remarkable subject?
Learn a little about Houdini's life and death. How accurate is Houdini? What episodes in his life are glossed over? Why would the miniseries leave these parts out?
Period programs and movies, which show the events and people of a bygone age, are popular. What other period dramas can you name? How is Houdini similar to or different from these shows or movies?
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