A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Standing up for yourself. Caring about others. Learning to take responsibility and dealing with the consequences of your actions. Working together as a team and communicating with each other.
Positive Role Models
Madison lacks direction but tries to solve problems. She also frequently clashes with her family and breaks the law to get her own way. Jimmy lacks prowess, but does his best to learn new skills and make others happy. Andy is a disciplinarian and hard-headed, but does what he thinks is best for the people in his care.
The main cast is gender balanced. Some ethnic diversity among the supporting players.
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Violence & Scariness
Property damage as part of robberies. Discussion of ghosts and haunted houses. Characters learn about and handle guns for self-defense. Characters threatened with guns and taken hostage. Non-serious bloody injury caused by accident. Character knocked unconscious, also by accident. On-screen death and bloody injury.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing. Sex referenced but not shown. Teen couple shown sleeping in bed with covers over them. Mild innuendo, played for comic effect.
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Language used includes "goddamn," "d--k," "s--t," "bitch," "f--k," "f---ing," and "a--holes."
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Products & Purchases
Story revolves around burglars who steal to enrich themselves. Character confused at the concept of not having a mobile phone.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink wine in moderation at dinner. Character offers alcohol to someone as an incentive. Older teens drink in moderation. Characters play a drinking game. One is shown later as being tired and mildly inebriated.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that How to Deter a Robber is a comedy-thriller about a teenage couple and their uncle who are held hostage by a pair of robbers. There is frequent strong language and occasional violence, which is mostly played for laughs. Lead character Madison (Vanessa Marano) is immature but does her best to take control of a difficult situation, while her skeptical uncle Andy (Chris Mulkey) offers a more traditional type of role model. The movie's positive messages take a while to emerge, but all of the main characters make some attempt to care for the people who are important to them. Swearing is constant, with multiple uses of "f--k" and "s--t" used when characters are frustrated or in danger. Violence and weapons feature as the action ramps up, with bloody injury and death. These moments are often played for their comedic value, though, so lack any real shock or horror. There is some kissing between Madison and her boyfriend, Jimmy (Benjamin Papac), and it is implied that they have sex. Characters drink alcohol fairly regularly, too -- despite Madison and Jimmy both being in their late teens -- with some suggestion of mild intoxication. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
With the first Home Alone movie rightly regarded as a classic, and its various sequels and reboots suggesting there's always an audience for a Christmas crime caper, it's unsurprising that this film got green-lit. But everything about How to Deter a Robber is so derivative that it offers zero surprises or suspense. Debut writer-director Maria Bissell would've benefitted from spending more time on developing the movie's core group of five characters. In particular, the relationship troubles of Marano's defiant Madison and Abbie Cobb's people-pleasing home invader, Christine, who is the most original voice of the piece but barely utilized.
Likewise, Papac gets one scene to show that there's more to goofy boyfriend Jimmy than meets the eye. But it's quickly forgotten before we return to a comedy-thriller plot that's missing both laughs and excitement. Between its booby-trapped house that fails to spark into life and dialogue that rarely offers more than mundane squabbling between family members, How to Deter a Robber is one of those Christmas presents likely to end up in the returns pile.
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.