A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the plot of this film -- which has very strong content for a PG-13 -- is driven by escalating violence, cruelty, and racism (much of it directed toward a racially mixed couple). A policeman is portrayed as unbalanced, aggressive, and threatening. Gunshots are fired out of and near an apartment where a husband holds his wife and baby hostage, and shoot-outs at close range result in the bloody deaths of two men. A policeman punches a suspect with a rifle, slaps his teen daughter in the face, and breaks the law to cover up his actions. Mildly sexual scenes involve a caring husband and wife kissing and hugging, with partial male nudity seen from the rear. There's also a fair amount of strong language (including "s--t" and "f--k"), smoking, and social drinking.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
When racially mixed couple Lisa and Chris Mattson (Kerry Washington and Patrick Wilson) arrive in their new suburban Los Angeles neighborhood, they're greeted with hostility by Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson), their African-American next-door neighbor. Rigid and seething with irra'ional latent anger, Abel -- a policeman who's raising two children by himself -- is the self-appointed marshal of Lakeview Terrace, and he's threatened by the Mattsons' Yuppie values, as well as the racial implications of their marriage. A series of confrontations heightens the antagonism and sets the neighbors against each other, escalating into a dangerous struggle -- all as a wildfire threatens to destroy the community.
Is it any good?
The early scenes of LAKEVIEW TERRACE are promising. There's solid dialogue, a commanding performance by Jackson, and a thought-provoking twist that finds the super-bright African-American character portrayed as a bigot. Unfortunately, as the movie moves toward its formulaic, blood-spattered conclusion, these elements are misused, even exploited, to tell a routine story that's heavy with violence and too-obvious menace.
The filmmakers make a cursory effort to explain their villain's motives, but it's flimsy and comes too late. A subplot dealing with the marital problems aggravated by the young couple's predicament is well-intended but unoriginal and tedious. Director Neil LaBute is noted for his provocative filmmaking, but this is one of his lesser efforts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how and why the filmmakers use racism to update the age-old story of feuding neighbors. Is this an effective choice? Why or why not? Is the movie trying to equate the danger of the advancing wildfires to the danger of the advancing personal racism? How do the climaxes of both events work together to resolve the story? What other issues come into play in the movie besides race?
- In theaters: September 18, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: January 27, 2009
- Cast: Kerry Washington, Patrick Wilson, Samuel L. Jackson
- Director: Neil LaBute
- Studio: Screen Gems
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense thematic material, violence, sexuality, language and some drug references.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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