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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The teen characters suffer indirect consequences for underage drinking -- but they're more clearly punished for trusting the wrong adult.
Positive Role Models
Some of the teens seem somewhat responsible. One stays sober so he can drive, and main character Maggie tries to respect her mother and follow the rules of the house -- but not always. The rest are largely irresponsible. As for the adults, Sue Ann is unstable, and the rest are shown as generally unhappy, wrecked versions of their teen selves.
Violence & Scariness
Truck mows down a jogger; the body is jolted and smashed. Bloody corpse shown. Wrist-slicing, with gushing blood. Torture includes lips being sewn shut, burning with a hot iron, hitting with the edge of an iron, stabbing with a knife. Gun is drawn and pointed threateningly. Someone is shot, with bloody trail on floor. Hitting with frying pan. Building on fire. Grabbing, threatening. Jump scare. (Spoiler alert) A character seeks revenge related to a public humiliation involving a sex act that she didn't intend to be part of.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief shot of a woman grabbing a naked penis. Character receives implied oral sex in a car; also suggestion of unseen oral sex in a dark closet. A male teen undresses; his naked bottom is shown. Kissing -- between teens and between a teen and an adult. Teens are said to be having sex in a bathroom. Adult character wears a revealing outfit in a casino.
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Extremely strong, constant language includes "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "p---y," "c--t," "a--hole," "t-ts," "bitch," "hell," "goddamn," "d--k," "crap," "piss," "loser," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). Middle-finger gestures.
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Products & Purchases
Coke shown and mentioned. U-Haul truck shown. iPhones and Facebook used. Fireball whiskey mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Frequent teen drinking, sometimes to point of being staggering drunk, passing out. Teen pot smoking, vaping. Characters are unknowingly drugged by the villain.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
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.