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 grim sci-fi thriller is about global catastrophe and disaster, which could be very upsetting for kids. There are scary presences, spooky music, dead parents, and children in danger throughout the movie, and it really stretches the PG-13 rating in terms of depicting horrifying disasters (a monumental plane crash injures and kills scores of people, an out-of-control subway train smashes into a crowded station, etc.). Animals are seen burning as they flee from a massive fire. A main character also drinks to excess on a number of occasions, and there's some language ("s--t," "damn," etc.).
What's the story?
When a time capsule buried by an elementary school class in 1959 is dug up in 2009, one little girl's strange, unsettling entry -- a paper filled with hundreds of random numbers -- finds its way into the hands of single dad/astrophysicist John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) and his son, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury). John soon determines that the numbers aren't random at all: They actually reveal a prophetic listing of all the major catastrophies on earth since 1959 -- and, even more frightening, disasters in the immediate future. Is it coincidence or part of a grand plan? Fear and panic escalate as John, working with the daughter (Rose Byrne) of the now-dead little girl who foresaw it all, tries to stop the inevitable.
Is it any good?
KNOWING wants to be a lot of things, but logical isn't one of them. From early in the movie when John lectures his M.I.T. students about randomism vs. determinism (unsubtly setting the stage for what's to come and also sounding like he's talking to a seventh grade class) to the final moments when Earth's very survival is at stake, style and action take precedence over coherence.
The characters never behave in a rational way, instead serving only to move the story from one harrowing event to another. In its desire to cover such major issues as humankind's frailty in the face of nature, religion, parenting, and even a glimmer of hope for the future, the film loses its way amid showy special effects, thinly drawn characters, and lack of plausibility. Dark City, an early Alex Proyas movie, was far more successful at giving life to the science-fiction genre.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie creates suspense. Would it be as spooky or scary without the music, close-up shots, or shadows?
Parents, if the movie's end-of-the-world subject matter upsets your kids, be sure to address their fears.
And on a lighter note, you can also discuss what you'd put in a time capsule to represent your life.
- In theaters: March 20, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: July 7, 2009
- Cast: Chandler Canterbury, Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne
- Director: Alex Proyas
- Studio: Summit Entertainment
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: disaster sequences, disturbing images, and brief strong language
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