Warm family comedy highlights resilience; smoking, language.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that iMordecai is a Miami-set comedy about a man whose parents are Holocaust survivors. Written and directed by cigar maker Marvin Samel, this is the story of his life and is a tribute to his parents. That, combined with spot-on performances by Judd Hirsch and Carol Kane, brings an authenticity to the film, with Jewish culture woven into every word and action of Mordecai (Hirsch) and Vela (Kane). The movie emphasizes the importance of Holocaust survivors sharing their stories so that history never repeats itself. Mordecai's family's tragedy is told in bits throughout the film; it's portrayed with a clean, friendly animation style that may make the difficult material easier to digest for younger or more sensitive viewers. Other emotional content, like a dementia diagnosis, is kept lighter thanks to the film's comedic elements. Iffy content includes Mordecai happily accepting and smoking a joint at a party of young people, lots of cigar smoking, and strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and more).
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What's the Story?
In iMORDECAI, retirement has made 80-year-old Mordecai (Judd Hirsch) restless. He's annoying his son Marvin (Sean Astin) and wife Vela (Carol Kane) with a string of projects. When Mordecai gets a smartphone, the Holocaust survivor is awakened to how much more there is to learn about technology, Miami, and himself.
Is It Any Good?
Cigar company owner-turned-writer/director/producer Marvin Samel makes a solid filmmaking debut in this well-made tribute to his parents. While iMordecai's script is just OK, the performances by Hirsch and Kane kick things up a notch. Anyone who's lived in Miami can attest to the accuracy of the characters and the dialogue (and with so many gorgeous shots of the city, it's a bit of a travelogue as well). And for those who don't, the evidence is in the closing credits, which show the real Mordecai Samel. Hirsch and Kane, who also worked together in the 1970s series Taxi, nail the specificity of their characters in impressive detail, while Astin channels every adult son or daughter whose love for their parents is matched by their frustration. Samel demonstrates that there's life and even humor after unspeakable tragedy and that life can keep on giving for those who are up for enjoying the ride.
Samel takes a "spoonful of sugar" approach to recounting Mordecai's horrific experiences in World War II (which took his family to a concentration camp) by using a tween-friendly animation style. The result is a film that might help younger viewers understand what happened during the Holocaust. At the same time, Samel offers proof that all parents and kids drive each other crazy at times, but what's always consistent is love.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how the characters in iMordecai demonstrate perseverance. Why is this an important life skill?
What devices do the filmmakers use to convey the horrors of the Holocaust? What's the benefit? Why is it important for survivors' stories to be told?
iMordecai was made by a son about his parents, and he focused it around a real, albeit small, real-life event: He took his dad kicking and screaming to get a new phone, and when he came back to the store, all of the young employees were surrounding him, laughing at his stories. If you made a movie about your family, what would be your central plot?
Is smoking glamorized in the film? Are there realistic consequences? Why does that matter?
Why do you think the title iMordecai was chosen for the film? Is it making any kind of statement about technology use?
- In theaters: February 24, 2023
- Cast: Judd Hirsch, Sean Astin, Carol Kane
- Director: Marvin Samel
- Studio: Greenwich Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Character Strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 26, 2023
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