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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No positive messages. While Jack stands up (literally) to a vicious and sadistic bully, it doesn't feel like a positive takeaway.
Positive Role Models
While Jack is a likable and sympathetic teen character who is enduring tremendous difficulties as he's surrounded by vicious bullies, mean girls, and a jerk older brother, he also curses frequently, drinks, smokes, and leaves his young cousin to be brutally tormented by the neighborhood bullies. Teen characters smoke, drink, sext, and are physically and verbally abusive.
Violence & Scariness
Vicious bullying. A teen boy is kicked and punched until he is nearly knocked unconscious, suffering a mild concussion and a broken rib. He is held down and sprayed in the face with black spray paint and is later knocked to the ground by these same bullies. Also, these bullies tie up a 10-year-old boy in their backyard and shoot him in the chest with a paintball gun; before this, the leader of the bullies gives the young boy a lit M-80 firecracker and tells him that if he doesn't throw it before the bully slowly counts to 10, they'll let him go. Teen boys are attacked by a man wielding a tire iron. A teen boy is hit in the head by a baseball bat swung by another boy.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A teen boy is nearly caught masturbating in the shower. A teen boy and his tween cousin play truth or dare with two teen girls: A girl is dared to lift up her shirt and show her breasts and does so; the tween boy is told to drop his pants and show his penis and does so. At the request of a girl he has a crush on, a teen boy texts her a picture of his penis; he is later mocked by her friends who tell him his penis is small. A teen boy and girl start kissing in bed, removing clothes, almost have sex.
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A teen boy spray-paints "c--t" on a bully's garage door. Frequent profanity, including ample use of "f--k" and its various permutations, "fag," "faggot," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "d--k," "dumba--." The middle-finger gesture.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens smoke cigarettes, drink beer, down shots of vodka. A scene of a house party in which teens binge-drink.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that King Jack is a coming-of-age drama about a teen in a crumbling blue-collar neighborhood who's trying to deal with vicious bullying, a cruel older brother, girl troubles, and a younger cousin who's sent to live with them after the cousin's mother is hospitalized due to mental illness. Expect frequent, almost sadistic bullying: The lead character is kicked and beaten to within an inch of his life and left with a concussion and a broken rib. He's also spray painted in the face, knocked to the ground (with his face held in concrete), threatened with a knife, cut on the face after sneaking into a room where he thinks he's about to have sex with a girl. A 10-year-old boy is tied to a lawn chair while others shoot him in the chest with a paintball gun. The 10-year-old is also forced to hold a lit M-80 firecracker and told that if he holds it for a long count to 10, he'll be let go. The characters who instigate all of this are attacked by an adult wielding a tire iron, and one is knocked in the head by a baseball bat. Verbal abuse includes Jack being told that he has a small penis and the unwelcome nickname ("Scab") bestowed by Jack's older brother, who constantly berates him. While there are implied consequences for the bullying behavior, the movie is a bit too wrapped up in its own unflinching take on realism to have any clear-cut positive messages on the subject. Teens engage in other iffy behaviors, too: smoking, drinking, showing their private parts during truth or dare (Jack also sends a picture of his penis to someone he has a crush on), forcing vodka shots on each other, etc. And in the opening scene, Jack spray-paints "c--t" on the garage door of one of the people who's bullied him. There's no sugarcoating in this movie, whose takeaway could be construed as "stand up to bullies at all costs, and don't rat to the police." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
While some coming-of-age movies are nostalgic remembrances of long-gone summers of good-time oldies on the radio and sweet first kisses, KING JACK is the complete opposite of that. It's an unflinching and unsentimental portrait of teens growing up in dead-end America, drinking, smoking, sexting, and getting beaten to a pulp by an incredibly vicious bully. One can't help but root for Jack, and while it's easy enough to get wrapped up in what's happening, there is always the lingering feeling that the movie really, really wants to show you how "real" it is, all the time, in every scene. King Jack wants to make absolutely certain you realize that teens face peer pressure and verbal taunting, that they drink, smoke, curse, and show each other their private parts during rounds of truth or dare, and that there are some very sadistic bullies out there in the world.
Which brings us to the bully. This bully -- Shane -- is the cruelest of the cruel, subjecting Jack and his cousin Ben to the nastiest of mental and physical tortures. He's so unrelentingly cruel, in fact, that he starts to walk that thin line between a bully drawn from real-life experience and an over-the-top bad guy from any movie where the villain shows no restraint whatsoever to get what he wants. This almost impossibly evil character takes away from some fine acting and the otherwise engaging story.
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.