A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Need for Speed is an action movie, based on a video game, and centers around car racing (and car crashing). Teens will be attracted to the movie thanks to its star Aaron Paul in his first lead role after the hit TV series Breaking Bad. Expect plenty of car chases, stunts, and crashes, and characters die, though only a little blood is shown. Infrequent language includes a few uses of "s--t" and "bitch." In some scenes, women are shown as sexual objects, a man strips naked (only his bottom is shown), and the main character and the leading lady fall in love and nearly kiss. Parents of driving-age teens should be aware that the very fast stunt driving in the movie was done by both stuntmen and actors after intensive training, and they might want to remind them that this kind of driving in real life is extremely dangerous.
What's the story?
Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) could have been a champion racer, but instead he remained behind in his small community of Mt. Kisco, working on cars with his faithful crew. An old rival, the successful Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), returns to town with a lucrative offer to restore a classic Ford Mustang. An argument over the sale of the car leads to a race between the enemies, followed by an accident that lands the innocent Tobey in jail. Two years later, he plots to enter the dangerous "De Leon" race, run by the mysterious Monarch (Michael Keaton), but to do so, he must make a speedy cross-country run to San Francisco, with the daughter of the car's owner, Julia (Imogen Poots), in tow. Can Tobey beat Dino and restore his good name?
Is it any good?
Former stunt man Scott Waugh pays respectful homage to the classic action/car chase movies of the 1960s and 1970s by choosing to use all live stunts, with no computer-generated effects. He also casts an actual actor (Aaron Paul), rather than an action hero, to play the lead, resulting in more meaningful, human moments. So, even though the movie is a fairly routine popcorn entertainment with typical twists, romances, heroes and villains, it feels old-fashioned, organic, and exciting. It's based on a video game, but you'd never know it.
The stunts, especially one involving an Apache helicopter rescuing the escaping Mustang from the edge of a cliff, is tremendous, with far more powerful impact than CG effects could accomplish. It helps that Paul and his co-star, English actor Imogen Poots, are so good and sympathetic together, showing fear and doubt as well as exhilaration. And even though it runs past two hours, the movie is briskly paced; it's a terrific ride.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence and car racing. What would be the cost of all this violence and wild driving in real life? Does the movie reflect the true consequences of the way the characters drive their cars?
Could you tell that the movie is shot without computer-generated effects and used all real stunts? What is the difference?
What positive qualities does the main character have? Is he a good role model? What would make him a better role model?
- In theaters: March 14, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: August 5, 2014
- Cast: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots
- Director: Scott Waugh
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Cars and trucks
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of reckless street racing, disturbing crash scenes, nudity and crude language
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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.