Somewhat dark rock dramedy has drinking, strong language.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mighty Oak is a dramedy about a talented 10-year-old guitarist (the titular Oak, played by Tommy Ragen) who may or may not be the reincarnation of a singer who died 10 years earlier. Much of the movie is tween-friendly, but it has many uses of the word "s--t" (and other language), as well as heavy themes related to addiction/substance abuse, orphanhood, untreated mental illness, and grief. Several adults drink, one to excess, and one scene shows two people making out; one refuses to go further because the other is too drunk to consent. Themes include teamwork and empathy, as well as the importance of found families.
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What's the Story?
MIGHTY OAK opens with Gina Jackson (Janel Parrish), manager of up-and-coming Southern California band Army of Love, listening to the band's frontman/her brother Vaughn's (Levi Dylan) idea for a new song. Soon after, the band -- which also includes Pedro (Carlos PenaVega), Darby (Ben Milliken), and Alex (Nana Ghana) -- is involved in a fatal car accident that kills Vaughn. Ten years later, Oak (Tommy Ragen), a 10-year-old boy who lives next door to the local café/music venue that Army of Love used to frequent, borrows Vaughn's guitar and proceeds to learn every Army of Love song he can find. When Gina witnesses Oak's ability to mimic Vaughn's playing style, she becomes convinced that it's a sign to get the band back together. Eventually Gina starts to believe that Oak is literally Vaughn reincarnated. Meanwhile, Oak's life at home is even more complicated, because his widowed mother (Alexa PenaVega), a veteran, is barely functional and addicted to painkillers.
Is It Any Good?
Director Sean McNamara's dramedy features a gifted child musician, but it's also a confusing mix of "edgy" and tween-targeted content, trying to balance kid jokes with heavy themes. The reincarnation premise of this Kidz Bop-meets-School of Rock movie could have been much funnier, but instead it's occasionally off-putting as it makes Gina seem fixated on both her dead brother and Oak. At one point Oak even asks, "If I'm just Oak, can I still be in the band?" and audiences will think "no" even as Gina answers "yes." The dialogue includes noticeably heavy use of the word "s--t," as well as an unusual fascination with Oak's age-inappropriate love of coffee and a cringe-worthy focus on Pedro's attractiveness (see Raven-Symoné's supporting role as Taylor, who frequently objectifies him).
Those aged-up details are in keeping with Mighty Oak's darkest plot detail: the relationship between Oak and his mother, who's often seen passed out or sleeping with a needle and an array of prescription drugs at her side. Opioid addiction in America is serious, and including it here feels like a significant misstep. The heavy themes definitely make for a dizzying contrast with the humor and the focus on Oak as an innocent 10-year-old who happens to have a gift for the electric guitar and songwriting. No doubt some will consider the movie a heart-tugging crowd-pleaser, but it's so muddled with its tone switching that it's difficult to think of it as an uplifting family film. There is a happily ever after, though, even if it feels too little too late after all the angst, addiction, and reincarnation drama.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about which character strengths are demonstrated in Mighty Oak. Why are teamwork and empathy important?
What do you think about Gina's belief in reincarnation? What do you think the filmmakers believe about it?
Do you think it's believable that people would enjoy a rock band fronted by a child singer? Who are the youngest popular singers you can think of?
How does the movie portray drinking and addiction? Are there realistic consequences? Why does that matter?
What are your favorite movies about musicians? Why are they so compelling? How does this movie compare to those?
- On DVD or streaming: September 8, 2020
- Cast: Carlos PenaVega, Janel Parrish, Tommy Ragen
- Director: Sean McNamara
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic content involving substance abuse, language, some accident images and brief suggestive comments
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
School of Rock
Standout Jack Black in nerds-become-cool comedy.
Brilliant (if edgy) musical drama celebrates creativity.
Disney turns out a fun, clean, surefire tween hit.
For kids who love movies with music
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