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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that How to Fake a War is a dismal comedy that satirizes the motives behind celebrity endorsements and charity work. There is plenty of bad language, while the effects of war -- both real and fake -- are also depicted. There are no positive role models, as a cast of cynical press officers and shallow celebrities -- led by PR consultant Kate (Katherine Parkinson) and superstar rapper Harry Hope (Jay Pharoah) -- try to exploit another country's unrest for their own gain. The residents of that country are portrayed as simple-minded, easy to fool, and violent. Violence features intermittently, as both real and fake wars are shown with some gunshots, beatings with batons, and bloody injuries. Some characters are shot and killed, but no close-ups of their deaths are shown. One character is kicked in the face by another, after an argument. Variants of "f--k" are used throughout in both anger and frustration. A language with a non-Roman alphabet is criticized as being "gobbledygook." Two characters undress while making reference to sex, before being shown lying together partially clothed.
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What's the story?
Is it any good?
A flimsy story filled with clichés, this movie limps through its 84-minute runtime as though it's sustained a battlefield injury of its own making. The characters' motivations frequently change to aid the plot. Sisters Kate and Peggy (Lily Newmark), in particular, alternate between being at odds and working as a team, moving past one major revelation about their relationship as quickly as it has been dumped into the story.
The dialogue is hampered with labored exposition, which leads to How to Fake a War 's attempts at humor falling flat. This is despite efforts to use jokes to shine a light on how the media and celebrities can attempt to exploit worthy causes to their own ends. The plot is largely implausible, too. The footage shot by Kate and her colleagues is unconvincing, while the movie's portrayal of foreigners as rural "simpletons" manipulated by cynical Brits and Americans is as lazy as it is dated. All in all, this is one "fake news" story that's unlikely to go viral.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the portrayal of the media in How to Fake a War. How does Kate try to manipulate the media for her clients? Should we believe everything we read and see? How to spot "fake news."
Discuss the effects of war in the movie, as well as the violence seen -- both real and fake? Did the fact the movie is a comedy effect the impact of the violence? How to talk to kids about violence, crime, and war.
Talk about the language used in the movie. Does it seem necessary or excessive? What does it contribute to the story?
What does the movie have to say about celebrity endorsements and charity work? Why are some people skeptical about the reasons for rich, famous celebrities engaging with worthy causes? Is it fair to criticize celebrities for this?
How does Kate and Peggy's relationship change over the course of the film? Why are relationships with loved ones often more complicated than we expect? Talk about your own family relationships and how you might improve them.
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