Hounddog

  • Review Date: September 15, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 102 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Notorious Dakota Fanning indie too adult for kids.
  • Review Date: September 15, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 102 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

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.

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

Director Deborah Kampmeier has 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 have 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). Fanning is clearly talented beyond her years, but this unremarkable coming-of-age story isn't the best showcase for her acting gifts.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:September 17, 2008
DVD release date:February 3, 2009
Cast:Dakota Fanning, Robin Wright Penn, Ryan Pelton
Director:Deborah Kampmeier
Studio:Deerjen Films
Genre:Drama
Run time:102 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:a disturbing sexual assault of a young girl, and brief sexuality

This review of Hounddog was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 11, 15, and 18 year old Written byJulieKryger1970 January 5, 2009
Teen, 13 years old Written byMOVIE13 October 15, 2010
AGE
16
QUALITY
 
This drama is full of songs by elvis but is also full of younger things younger kids shouldent see like rape and shootings.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 16 years old Written byJalayeFleming March 26, 2009
AGE
16
QUALITY
 

MRS.MACK

It sounds bad but i love the overall movie it great...
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Essential School Tools