By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Kindness rewarded in shallow but fun teen cyberthriller.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Teens who are thoughtful, kind, and responsible are rewarded, while mob mentality, internet trolling, peer pressure, etc., are clearly condemned. That said, a few scenes of teen partying (drinking, etc.) briefly glamorize the behavior; danger, lying to parents, etc. are also glamorized.
Positive Role Models
Main character Vee is a mostly responsible teen who tries to do the right thing, but she succumbs to a moment of weakness involving greed and vanity. Ultimately, though her better side prevails.
Violence & Scariness
Many scenes of teens performing dangerous stunts: Some are hurt, shown falling, jumping through fire, etc. Motorcycle racing through traffic. Some uses of guns/shooting.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A teen cheerleader exposes her naked bottom during a game. More than one scene of teen kissing, making out, etc. Teen boy and girl are in their underwear for a long scene. Some innuendo and sex talk.
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Uses, both typed and spoken, of "s--t," "ass," "hell," "ass," "damn," "bitch," "d--k," "douchebag," and more. At least one written use of the word "f--k" spelled out with asterisks.
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Products & Purchases
Teens regularly use real websites and services: Facebook, Huffington Post, Amazon, Spotify, etc. Constant use of iPhones, smartphones, etc.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens smoking (possibly pot?) and drinking (from plastic cups) at a party, playing beer pong, etc. A teen girl appears to be drunk. Reference to "getting high."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Nerve is a teen thriller about a popular online video game (with some parallels to Pokemon Go) that can become dangerous. There are lots of scenes of teens (played by actors in their twenties) performing dangerous and/or thrilling stunts; some fail and get hurt. Guns are also shown, with some shooting. Teens kiss and make out, and sex is talked about. A cheerleader exposes her naked bottom at a school football game. Teens are shown drinking from plastic cups and briefly smoking (possibly pot?) at a party. The characters also use popular real-life websites/services/devices including Facebook, Spotify, and Huffington Post, as well as iPhones and other smartphones. Strong language includes "s--t," "ass," and "bitch." Despite the edgy material, the movie has a core message about being kind and responsible, and not falling prey to mob mentality or internet trolling.
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What's the Story?
NERVE tells the story of high school yearbook photographer Vee (Emma Roberts). After her older brother's death, Vee lives life in a safe zone, rarely taking any chances -- unlike her sexy, outgoing best friend, Syd (Emily Meade). Syd tells Vee about an online game called Nerve, in which users can choose to "watch" or "play" through a series of dares. After a particularly humiliating day, Vee decides to play. This instantly sends her on an odyssey across New York City, unexpectedly teamed up with the cool, kind Ian (Dave Franco). As the dares get bigger and bigger, Vee finds everything spinning out of control; the night leads up to a deadly face-off with a ruthless player known as Ty (Colson Baker, a.k.a. rapper Machine Gun Kelly).
Is It Any Good?
This lightweight thriller for the new millennium is flashy, with decent, likable characters and adrenaline-fueled thrills, even if it grows ever more implausible and ultimately disposable. Yet it does offer a spectacular condemnation of mob mentality and internet trolling, instead clearly rewarding kindness and responsibility. Co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman previously brought us the internet dating scam story Catfish, as well as the surveillance camera-powered Paranormal Activity 3 and 4, and they sure seem to have their fingers on the pulse of ... something.
Nerve effectively captures the feel of a movement or a trend (it sort of recalls Pokemon Go) in a New York City setting, as well as the adrenaline of an all-night romp. The filmmakers keep a strong storytelling pace, blowing right past several small plot problems and careless shortcuts without a thought. And the casting is spot-on; the chemistry between Roberts and Franco certainly helps carry the story along.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Nerve's violence. How intense is it? How does the risk of danger impact the level of the thrills? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
What's the appeal of an online game like Nerve? Is it the promise of fame? The voyeuristic quality of watching? How does it compare to real-life games (or shows)?
How does the game use the concept of mob mentality? What happens to large groups of people, and how do they make decisions? How does the main character prevail over this type of thinking?
What's the best way for teens to stay safe online? When should families start to talk about online responsibility?
How does the movie portray drinking and drug use? Is substance use glamorized? Are there any real-life consequences? Why is that important?
- In theaters: July 27, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: October 25, 2016
- Cast: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade
- Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: High School
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material involving dangerous and risky behavior, some sexual content, language, drug content, drinking and nudity-all involving teens
- Last updated: April 1, 2023
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