A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although Measure of a Man is intended to be an empowerment tale about an overweight teen (Blake Cooper) who learns to stand up for himself, its messages are muddled by poor decision-making and selfishness. Expect to see cruel/upsetting bullying, including a beating and kidnapping scene that verges on sexual assault (a teen boy is stripped and left in the woods). There's a bit of strong language ("a--hole," "goddamn," and some ethnic slurs), as well as teen drinking (including to excess) and smoking. Teen characters fool around, but there's no clear nudity.
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What's the story?
MEASURE OF A MAN's main character is overweight 17-year-old Bobby (Blake Cooper), who's bitter and unassertive. During a momentous 1976 summer vacation with his mother (Judy Greer), father (Luke Wilson), and sister (Liana Liberato), Bobby gets outrageously bullied by locals (led by Beau Knapp) and works for the exacting, wealthy Dr. Kahn (Donald Sutherland). Along the way, he must learn to stand up for himself. The film is based on Robert Lipsyte's novel One Fat Summer.
Is it any good?
This coming-of-age dramedy doesn't reward viewers' good will. The slack pacing and lack of insight in the dialogue don't help, but the flat presentation of the main character is what really makes it hard to hold on to the story. Measure of a Man feels under-written. The stiff narration blocks often feel as if they've stopped short of the point. Bobby's journey isn't compelling because it takes so long for so little to happen. And Bobby often makes poor decisions and tells lies for no other reason -- apparently -- than to serve the story. He isn't very sympathetic because he doesn't really seem to want anything. Even when his best friend needs him most, he's not there for her; he only tries to reconnect with her when he's upset and needs something from her.
The movie seems meant to be a comedy, or at least a comedy-drama, but the only mildly amusing moment comes during an attempted bird funeral. There's a general lack of energy to the proceedings, and lack of genuine reaction in the lead performance. For instance, when he's being beaten and kidnapped, Bobby doesn't scream or struggle. And when he's supposed to have an epiphany, there's no indication that it has actually happened. Measure of a Man feels as misguided as this actual quote: "This is your second chance, Robert, and, like baseball batters, you do not get a third." But hitters do get a third chance; there are three strikes in baseball. This film feels like the umpire called Strike Two, and the batter trudged back to the dugout, defeated.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Measure of a Man portrays bullying. Does it seem realistic? What are the different ways that people can bully others? Do some types have more impact than others? Why or why not?
What makes something an effective "coming-of-age" tale? Does this film meet those criteria?
Talk about Bobby and how he changes during Measure of a Man. Did you believe his transformation? What do you think prompted it? Was it predictable?
How does Bobby's weight impact his life and situation? Do you think the movie is trying to say anything about body image?
- In theaters: May 11, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: August 7, 2018
- Cast: Blake Cooper, Donald Sutherland, Judy Greer, Liana Liberato, Luke Wilson
- Director: Jim Loach
- Studio: Great Point Media
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic content including some intense bullying, teen drinking and sexuality, and for language
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