A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Melies encourages Jack not to spend his life worrying about getting hurt, because a certain amount of recklessness is needed for a joyous life. Jack decides that love is worth the risk of his heart giving out. The idea that your differences are your strengths is an excellent reminder to value what makes us each unique.
Positive Role Models
Jack is kind and patient and loves Acacia with a singular devotion. Madeleine is a faithful mother to Jack who just wants to keep him safe and healthy. Melies helps Jack and takes him under his wing.
Violence & Scariness
Jack nearly dies at birth because his heart freezes. His birth mother abandons him as a newborn. Joe regularly bullies Jack (and everyone else) at school, crushing anyone who threatens his authority. Joe pushes and prods and slaps Jack, crushes eggs on him, winds him up, calls him "Big Ben," plays with his heart, and threatens to pulverize it. One day as Joe is trying to choke Jack, Jack's cuckoo escapes and stabs Joe's eye out. On a train, Jack encounters Jack the Ripper, who sings a really scary song about slicing and dicing blondes and brunettes and all "sublime women." Jack the Ripper throws a knife at Jack.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple of intense kisses and romantic songs, as well as a few very suggestive jokes that will go over kids' head -- like when a woman says her friend died saying "giddy giddy giddy up, ride 'em cowboy," and her friend says "libido killed the cowboy."
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Insult language like "runt" and "Big Ben."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A couple of adults smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart is a dark, steampunk-style animated musical that's best for tweens and up, like Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Originally a French production that's been dubbed in English, the imaginative tale has some mature elements, particularly the dark and violent tone, schoolyard bullying that ends in an eye being stabbed, and the main character's encounter with Jack the Ripper (with an ensuing frightening song about slicing up beautiful women). A love story is central to the movie, and the teen romance gets pretty intense, leading to songs about hearts ablaze and a climactic kissing scene. And adults smoke cigarettes and tell suggestive jokes that will go over kids' head. Bottom line? This is best for older kids who are ready for more sophisticated animated movies. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Enjoyment of this unique period love story will depend on how you feel about animated fare that's more Coraline and Corpse Bride than Pixar and pixie dust. And, yes, if you're a fan of musicals, that will help, too. It's not a perfect film; schoolyard bully Joe is a bit overdone, and there's not enough relationship building between Madeleine and her close friends, but you've got to admire the ambition of such a far-reaching love story that crams in historical figures (Jack the Ripper, Georges Melies), humor, and a lot of romance.
This movie is based on author/composer Mathias Malzieu's (frontman of the French rock band Dionysos) 2007 book The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, which later became a concept album for Dionysos before being adapted into this translated French musical. The animation, like the story, is imaginative -- if really dark at times -- and the characters are reminiscent of Tim Burton's and Henry Selick's creations. The darkness is cut by the colorful character of Miss Acacia, Jack's object of affection in flamenco red. Barks, who played Eponine in Les Miserables, does a beautiful job with Acacia's songs, which are mostly in Spanish (Jack crosses Europe to find her). Jack himself is alternately melancholy and hopeful, a young Hamlet of indecision and longing obsessed with his future and his one true love.
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.