A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Be yourself and don't let others tell you how to act or who to be. Kindness pays off. Kids need attention more than money and rules. It's important to deal with loss and talk about your feelings. Likewise, tell the people you love how you feel about them. Don't judge a book by its cover.
Positive Role Models
Parents and grandparents show their love for their kids in a lot of different ways, and sometimes they make mistakes despite good intentions. Bev, Ellen, and Nicky become fast friends and support each other in various ways. Some middle schoolers bully and insult others. Bev and Ellen are dedicated students who care about their grades. The girls tell a couple of white lies to their parents and grandparents, and Ellen lets her little brother wander off.
There's racial and ethnic diversity in the cast. Bev asks Ellen to translate a Japanese song, appearing not to understand when Ellen explains she's Taiwanese. A bully at the middle school is in a wheelchair. Two ostensibly gay neighbors are described as living together and putting their dogs in sweaters, even in summer, because "fashion before comfort!" There's a subtext about not judging people by their clothes, station in life/jobs, or past mistakes.
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Violence & Scariness
Middle schoolers bully and tease each other. Bev's parents died in a car crash. Nicky's dad has rules for her and her brother to fight; the two tussle and Nicky kicks her brother in the groin. A man punches another man and pushes him through a car window to give a forced apology. Nicky says she'll bring mace and a switchblade on a potentially risky nighttime outing. The girls trace Bev's parents' footsteps through a scary cemetery. It's the 1990s, so when a car has no seatbelt, an adult tells preteens to just hold onto each other.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Bev's mom was 16 when she had her, which is referred to as "babies having babies." Tween girls discuss their fears regarding periods and tampons. A picture shows a couple kissing.
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"Damned," "hell," "crap," "moron," "badass," "God," "freaking;" taunts like "stupid," "nerd," "dork," "weirdo," "dweeb," "lame," "loser," "jerk," "washout," "dumb;" and anatomical terms include "puke," "pee," "fart," "zit," "butt," "boobs."
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Products & Purchases
Lots of brand names are mentioned, most noticeably Spam, Tab, Fred Meyer, Walkman, AA, and Napster. Lots of '70s and '80s bands, songs/albums, and movies are referenced.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Anti is sober and has a lot of AA materials in his store. The girls go to a bar where people are drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mixtape address some mature themes about dealing with the loss of loved ones and traversing the difficult tween and teen years. A 7th grader's parents died in a car crash and she yearns to know more about them, but her grandma keeps her pain and her memories locked tightly away. Even when adults mean well, they sometimes make mistakes with their kids and don't always know how to show their love. Tweens need their friends for support because middle school is a tough place where kids bully and tease each other. Two teen siblings engage in a parent-approved fight, and there's mention of carrying mace and a switchblade for protection. There's also some mild language, mostly in taunts and insults, anatomical terms like "puke," "pee," "fart," "zit," "butt," "boobs," and "damned," "hell," "crap," "moron," and "badass." A character is sober and has AA materials around. Mention of "babies having babies." Tween girls discuss their fears regarding periods and tampons. 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 terrific rendering of the energy, innocence, and angst of the tween years squeezes a lot of emotion and a cast of memorable characters into its 97 minutes. Mixtape perfectly captures how tweens hit that critical point of growth where they push away from parents (or in this case, a grandparent) and look to define their own identities. The fact that 7th grader Bev's mom went through something similar, then ended up pregnant at 15 and dead in a car crash, makes the transition that much more meaningful. We feel this acutely in Julie Bowen's portrayal of the no-nonsense postal worker grandma, emotionally stuck in her inability to face the loss of her daughter or allow her granddaughter latitude from a predetermined safer path.
Life doesn't always go the way we plan. The tweens know this, trained for survival in the comically cruel social world of middle school. Good girls Bev and Ellen are reminiscent of Gilmore Girls' Rory and BFF Lane, and Gemma Brooke Allen and Audrey Hsieh are perfect in the roles. Same goes for Olga Petsa as Nicky, their classmate who dresses and acts tough but is also just tween girl waiting for her period and searching for her place. Record store owner "Anti" (a droll Nick Thune) is a recovering alcoholic with a world-weary demeanor and a heart of gold. If the characters themselves convey how even good intentions can go awry, then the film's overly-tidy ending should likewise be forgiven. Rainy, emerald-green Spokane, an interior city in the Pacific Northwest, was a subtle and meaningful choice of settings that matches the '70s and '80s soundtrack to set the mood for this story of love, loss, friendship, and life.
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.