A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Family is more than blood -- it's the people who care for and love you unconditionally. The importance of reading is also promoted, as is the idea that everyone has different gifts and talents they can nurture and grow.
Positive Role Models
Mr. Church is almost unbelievably selfless, caring, comforting, and wise. From breakfast to dinner every day, he takes care of Charlie and her mother and treats them as family. Charlie is a smart and talented girl/young woman who loves Mr. Church, even though she understands many people don't understand why or how she has a personal cook.
Violence & Scariness
More sadness and upsetting scenes than violence, but what's here could be emotionally wrenching. Two significant characters are ill and die, leaving the main character distraught. Two funerals. References to various deaths and a supporting character's vehicular manslaughter incident, which killed a child. A pregnant woman is accidentally struck and falls hard on the ground.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple of kisses and references to pregnancy out of wedlock and the mother's married lover.
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Very few at first -- a couple of uses of "damn," "hell," and "jerk" -- but in the second half, there are at least three times when someone says a bunch of expletives, including "s--t," "a--hole," "goddammit," and more.
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Products & Purchases
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Mr. Church almost always has a cigarette in his mouth. Teens smoke cigarettes, too. A character gets extremely drunk on several occasions. Another character is known for his DUI vehicular manslaughter conviction, which left him unable to drive. A mother serves her teen daughter for a toast.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mr. Church is a biographical drama based on a real-life friendship between the titular personal cook and the mother and daughter for whom he works. Starring Eddie Murphy in his first serious role in years, the movie should appeal to teens who enjoy independent dramas. Despite solid performances, the movie has garnered criticism for falling into what Spike Lee famously called the "Magical Negro" cliche, which could feel racially insensitive to some viewers. Also, one of the subplots revolves around hidden alcoholism (a character gets extremely drunk on several occasions, and there are references to a DUI vehicular manslaughter conviction), and both teens and an adult character smoke. There are sad deaths, two funerals, two women who have babies "out of wedlock" (as it's labeled in the movie), and a good bit of strong language (including "s--t" and "goddammit") in the second half of the script. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Evaluated just on Murphy and Robertson's performances, this relationship drama would be worth seeing, but the problematic stereotypes and cliched storyline make it a disappointing waste of talent. Murphy's portrayal of Mr. Church is thoughtfully understated and quietly forceful, forcing audiences to look beyond the actor's comedic genius to his considerable dramatic abilities. Robertson and McElhone are well cast opposite him, with Robertson in particular proving she's a gifted young actress who's able to convey much nuance.
Unfortunately, even if you take into consideration screenwriter Susan McMartin's real-life friendship with the personal cook she grew up with (although apparently some of the circumstances were quite different), Mr. Church quickly becomes a pretty blatant example of what Spike Lee first called the "Magical Negro." Mr. Church is a wise, caring, talented African-American man (he cooks, plays piano, sews, and even cries "elegantly") whose only purpose seems to be to help a troubled white character better understand herself. What little we learn of his back story is so limited that even that only serves to further the growth of Charlie's character. It's a shame, because the actors are quite impressive. But the movie is not.
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.
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Our Editors Recommend
Drama Movies That Tug at the Heartstrings
Great Movies with Black Characters
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.See how we rate