Parents' Guide to

Little Joe

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Sci-fi dirge may create false worry for kids; mild violence.

Movie NR 2019 105 minutes
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The conclusion of this sci-fi drama could make for fairly uncomfortable family viewing. It swims in the waters of a mother's work-life balance and where she might prefer to spend her time, examining whether her love for her child is authentic. Outside of the parent-child dynamic, Little Joe is based on a clever idea that has an application in today's world. It explores the idea that people could transform into a muted version of themselves after smelling a happy plant, an astute analogy to antidepressants.

The movie's story, pacing, and mood are like a dull hum, but just as your eyes start to feel heavy, you're awakened by the screeching score. That's not an overstatement: To suggest impending doom, the music is in a high-pitched tone that's guaranteed to make dogs howl in pain, alternated with a conga drum and recorder score (yes, recorder). Visually, every scene is awash in Pantone-popping shades that must have been chosen off of a paint color deck; they harmonize, and yet it's too much all at once. And the movie's idea feels original, until you realize it's a cliché: An inanimate object develops artificial intelligence that threatens humanity! All of that said, if the film's goal is to disturb viewers by rubbing together notions of beauty and horror, then it succeeds.

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