A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has brief strong language, social drinking, and references to teen pregnancy, rape, and murder. There is a terrible crime, mostly offscreen, but we see bodies and blood. A child is briefly in mild peril.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Kevin Spacey plays Prot, who is committed to a mental hospital when he says that he is from another planet called K-Pax and that he traveled to Earth on a beam of light. He begins treatment with Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges). Prot's story is so complete -- and so enticing -- that Powell is determined to find out the truth, more for his own sake than for any therapeutic benefit to Prot. Others are enthralled by Prot's stories. Mark's astronomer brother-in-law, despite his commitment as a scientist to rational empiricism, is so intrigued by Prot's answers to his questions that all he can say is, "I don't know what I believe. I only know what I saw." Prot's fellow patients begin to clamor to go back to K-Pax with him.
Is it any good?
K-PAX has a couple of daunting movie cliché obstacles to overcome: the only-in-movies "land of cute crazy people" setting and the always popular "patient heals the doctor" theme. Despite all of that and an unwise decision to tie things up too neatly at the end, the film manages to make it work, thanks to outstanding work by stars Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges and a script that is warm, witty, and genuine.
Director Softley has a delicate touch. Sunlight splintered by a prism, a child's ruby slippers, Spacey is outstanding, as always, resisting the temptation to make Prot too adorable. The subtlety and grace of his performance are astonishing. Bridges does a fine job as the doctor, and his scenes with Spacey make the movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how people react to unthinkable tragedy and how being an outsider can give someone insights that others miss. Why did everyone want to go to K-Pax? Why do we see the reflections of Prot and Mark merge before they ever speak to each other? Why did Prot say that we have within us the power to heal ourselves? What did that mean about his own need to heal? Why do both the Mark and the sheriff say that they do not want to know the truth? Some families may want to talk about Mark's unprofessional (and unrealistic) behavior in treating Prot.
- In theaters: October 26, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: August 13, 2002
- Cast: Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Mary McCormack
- Director: Iain Softley
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: a sequence of violent images, and brief language and sensuality
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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