Hounddog

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Hounddog Movie Poster Image
Notorious Dakota Fanning indie too adult for kids.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 102 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A girl who loves singing Elvis songs above all else loses her passion for music and life after getting raped. An African-American man is portrayed as wise and comforting; he teaches a girl about the blues. A brutal father is struck by lightning.

Violence

A young girl is raped after agreeing to take off her clothes for a teen boy. Viewers hear her scream and moan, but the camera focuses on her face and hands rather than showing the act taking place. Other disturbing images include a man being struck by lightning, a dog being shot, and a woman being bitten by a snake.

Sex

A young girl dances, swims, and hangs around in her tank top and underwear. Later she takes off her clothes in exchange for the promise of a concert ticket.

Language

Language includes "idiot," "bastard," and the "N" word used as a racial slur (the film is set in the 1950s South).

Consumerism

Just Elvis Presley music.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several characters, including youngsters Lewellen and Buddy, smoke cigarettes. Scenes take place in a bar, where both adults and teens drink/get drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this controversial independent drama has been discussed for more than a year as "the film where Dakota Fanning gets raped." Although the scene in question is far less graphic than the hype suggests, a heavy coming-of-age drama that deals with rape, racism, and family dysfunction isn't likely to appeal to teens (or, thankfully, Fanning's many even younger fans). In addition to the notorious rape scene, someone uses the "N" word against an African-American man, a woman is bitten by a rattlesnake, a man is struck by lightning, and a dog is shot. There's also some underage drinking and smoking and mild sexuality.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMatt B. October 28, 2015

Dakota Fanning's first adult role

This movie shows Dakota Fanning getting raped and masturbating but nothing explicit.
Adult Written bywonder dove March 30, 2013

Average Elvis-themed '50s flick.

This movie isn't too bad, but a tad boring. It's mostly set in a country setting where children have to make their own entertainment without TVs and C... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byBieberFreakinFever December 21, 2011

To Dark For Young Viewers

Hounddog is a good movie but has several disturbing scenes.
Teen, 16 years old Written byBusea October 14, 2011

Not for kids

If a kid watched this, he/she would be scarred for life after what happens about half-way through the movie.

What's the story?

In the Deep South in 1959, 12-year-old Lewellen (Dakota Fanning) loves Elvis so much that she can't stop singing -- or dancing -- like him. When she and her best friend, Buddy (Cody Hanford), discover that the King is going to give a concert in town, she's desperate for a ticket. Unable to score money from her mean father (David Morse) or rock 'n' roll-hating grandmother (Piper Laurie), Lewellen reluctantly agrees to do her "Hounddog" act for a teenage boy who promises tickets but has evil intentions. After she's brutalized, Lewellen loses her will to sing or live.

Is it any good?

Fanning is clearly talented beyond her years, but this unremarkable coming-of-age story isn't the best showcase for her acting gifts. Director Deborah Kampmeier reportedly drastically altered the second half of HOUNDDOG since she submitted a rough cut that garnered mediocre reviews and general outrage at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Without having seen the earlier cut, it's impossible to tell whether the changes made the film better, but one thing is clear -- the infamous rape scene is neither explicit nor exploitative. The scene, in which viewers hear more than they see, is a story development used to show how a pre-pubescent Lewellen is figuratively and literally silenced -- until a sage African-American caretaker (Afemo Omilami) helps her discover her "true voice" via the blues.

Unfortunately, the movie's metaphorical message lacks the intended emotional punch because it's so overpowered by banal Southern stereotypes (hissing snakes, a Bible-thumping grandmother, an emotionally abusive father, to name a few).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why this film is considered controversial. Is it because a young girl is assaulted or because Dakota Fanning is assaulted? Why do you think Fanning chose to take a role like this? Do child stars "owe" their younger fans anything in terms of making family-friendly movies? Families can also discuss Lewellen's love for Elvis' music. Critics have said that the filmmaker used Elvis as a symbol for how art can help people transcend/escape their troubles. Is that the movie's message? What about Lewellen's behavior -- was it risky? And how is race dealt with in the film? Why is it important to keep the setting and time period in mind?

Movie details

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