A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Language includes "idiot," "bastard," and the "N" word used as a racial slur (the film is set in the 1950s South).
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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).
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Our Editors Recommend
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