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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Sweet messages about redemption, family being more than blood, and the transformative power of friendship. The story encourages empathy for others.
Positive Role Models
While some adults are shown to be manipulative and neglectful, the caretakers at the home are clearly involved and caring with the kids. They even take them on trips. Raymond doesn't give up on Zucchini, and Zucchini doesn't give up on Camille. Simon shows that a bully is still human and can redeem himself. The kids all have heartbreaking, sad pasts -- and they're not always kind to one another -- but they ultimately care about one another very much and build their own family and community.
Violence & Scariness
A mother dies in an accident when she drunkenly falls down steps. Simon teases Zucchini and calls him "potato" for a little while, pushes a chair out from under him, and pushes other kids; he also makes fun of the other kids' quirks/issues, shines a light at a frightened boy, and spitefully steals and flies Zucchini's beloved kite. One kid is hurt, ending up a bit bloody and bruised. An aunt is rough with her niece and says she's "just like her mother" in a cruel way. Camille shoots a gun at a carnival and explains that her father taught her to shoot, but that a gun is also how he killed her mother and himself. Some of the kids have nightmares about what happened to them in their past. Simon tells Zucchini that one girl's father used to do "gross things to her." A woman rudely accuses a boy of stealing her daughter's ski goggles, even though the girl had let him borrow them.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some of the kids discuss sex in a comedic fashion; Simon explains that when a boy and a girl do it, a boy's "willy explodes" and that a girl "becomes agreeable," gets sweaty, and says "yes" a lot. A couple that works at the home kisses in front of the kids. The woman becomes pregnant, and the kids joke that the man's willy exploded.
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Discussion of sex includes the terms "willy," "the thing," "explosions," and other euphemisms.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Zucchini's mother was obviously an alcoholic: His home was littered with discarded beer cans, to the point that he made recycled art out of the cans and kept one as a memento of her.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that My Life as a Zucchini is an Oscar-nominated French-Swiss animated movie about an orphaned boy nicknamed Zucchini who goes to live in a group foster home. The occasionally mature subject matter -- including the death of Zucchini's alcoholic mother and references to sex, abuse, violence, suicide, deportation, and other reasons children end up in state care -- makes the movie most appropriate for older tweens and up. Kids comically discuss sex, and there's a brief scene of a couple kissing, as well as one in which kids confront their pregnant caretaker about how she became pregnant. Expect some sad moments and conversations, but lots of funny and touching ones, too. There's plenty to talk about after watching movie, and it ultimately has a happy ending, as well as messages about family, friendship, and empathy. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Director Claude Barras' adaptation of Gilles Paris' novel isn't quite a coming-of-age story, but it's every bit as poignant. And the gorgeous animation and whip-smart dialogue make it a delightful pick for tweens and up. My Life as Zucchini can be heartbreaking, it but never loses sight of how resilient children are, even when they've seen the horrors of violence and abuse and abandonment. Despite their difficult backgrounds, Zucchini, Simon, and their housemates just want to be cared for and to belong -- and for the most part, they do. "They're all the same," Simon tells Zucchini -- whether it's because a parent was arrested, deported, died, or just left. These are kids who have no one to claim them as their own, at least at first.
Like some of Studio Ghibli or LAIKA's edgier offerings, My Life as Zucchini isn't meant for very young kids, and that's refreshing. Not all animated films need to cater to the early-elementary set, and this one is clearly best for kids who are mature enough to appreciate the characters' difficult circumstances (and of course, to deal with the hilarious conversation the boys have about "that thing between boys and girls"). This is a story that brings up so much, and it's all treated beautifully -- from the bully redeemed to the power of puppy love to the importance of friendship to the fact that families can be more than blood relations. If your family enjoys stop-motion animation and your kids are ready for big themes with a side of laughter and possibly tears, this is a must-see film.
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.