A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ma is a thriller with horror elements about a woman (Octavia Spencer) who offers to let teens party and drink in her house ... but it turns out she has some pretty dark secrets. Expect extremely mature content on all fronts. Teens and others are tortured in various ways (lips sewn shut, burned with an iron, etc.), a character is shot, and there's plenty of blood, as well as a jump scare or two. Nudity includes brief glimpses of a penis and a naked bottom. Oral sex is strongly implied, teens kiss passionately, a teen kisses an adult, and teen sex is mentioned. Language is constant, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "p---y," and more. Teens drink throughout, sometimes getting drunk and passing out. They also smoke pot and vape, and characters are unknowingly drugged by the villain.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In MA, Maggie (Diana Silvers) and her mom, Erica (Juliette Lewis), move from the big city back to Erica's small hometown, where she's landed a much-needed job. Maggie quickly makes friends at her school and even finds a nice boyfriend in Andy (Corey Fogelmanis). But with little to do around town, the friends like to spend their free time drinking -- and to do that, they need an adult to buy liquor. They get their wish when Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) comes along. Their first night is ruined after the cops are called, so Sue Ann invites the group to party safely in her basement. Then strange things start happening, and Maggie begins to get a bad feeling, urging her friends not to go back. But Sue Ann has a few dark secrets and isn't willing to give up her new "friends" so easily.
Is it any good?
This so-so thriller goes hard with the mature content (language, blood, drinking, sex) but stays rather sedate in the character department, content to keep Spencer's "Ma" at arm's length. Ma is a strange combination: It's like an edgy, misfit Blumhouse (Get Out, Happy Death Day, etc.) production crossed with the work of director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up), who specializes in safe, message-heavy dramas. Spencer won an Oscar for her work in The Help -- and she's an awesome performer in general (see Fruitvale Station, Snowpiercer, Hidden Figures, The Shape of Water, and more). It's puzzling that she would be interested in Sue Ann, other than the chance to have fun going crazy.
Her character's entire psychology is explained by a simple flashback that's interspersed throughout the story but treated so secretively that it feels like it should have built to more. And her final snap feels preposterous, a huge leap of logic. She winds up a monster, rather than pitiable. The teens are likable enough, though Silvers also appears in the much better Booksmart; it's a far smaller role, but it's so much more vivid than what she has here. And, to rub it in, Lewis' character announces in one scene that she's binging a John Hughes marathon on TV, further reminding us that these characters just don't have much inner life. Overall, Ma isn't terrible, but it feels more like those behind it were enjoying "slumming" in the horror genre, without the kind of dedication it takes to make something truly affecting.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is sex depicted? Are teens responsible? Is there trust? What values are imparted?
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of horror movies?
- In theaters: May 31, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: September 3, 2019
- Cast: Octavia Spencer, Missi Pyle, Allison Janney
- Director: Tate Taylor
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violent/disturbing material, language throughout, sexual content, and for teen drug and alcohol use
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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