Parenthood Movie Poster Image




Poignant family dramedy with lots of adult themes.
  • Review Date: October 6, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1989
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Parenting can be messy, for both parents and children, and the rocky moments aren't glossed over here (though they're handled with loads of humor). No one makes the right decision all the time, but effort counts, as does, of course, love. Also, families come in all sorts of configurations, and it doesn't matter if they fit the traditional model. What matters is how they work together and support each other.

Positive role models

Nobody's perfect, but most everyone in the film is trying to make sense of their responsibilities to their children, to their partners, and to themselves. Married couples hit rough patches, but weather them with emotional generosity and honesty.


Couples fight loudly; a mom hits another character with a newspaper out of frustration. A man talks about loan sharks being on his case and threatening to kill him if he doesn't pay up. A teen vandalizes an office with a hammer.


More talk than action, though husbands, wives, boyfriends, and girlfriends are shown flirting and kissing and groping each other. There's no nudity, although some characters are shown in boxers, and a young couple talks about having taken nude pics of each other. Also, a character finds another person's vibrator, and a minor appears to have developed a penchant for self-stimulation and porn. A husband brandishes a wife's diaphragm.


Runs the gamut, from "b-tch" to "s--t." Somewhat frequent usage, but not extreme.


Nothing hugely obvious, though logos for baseball teams and colleges (Brown, for instance) are displayed. A family seems bent on creating a child genius, and the parents use various educational products to this end.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking during get-togethers and times of stress.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this affecting dramedy treads lightly on racy subjects -- porn and teen sexuality, for instance -- and does so with great heart and humor. It's a fairly realistic -- pumped up a bit for comedy, of course -- look at parenthood, warts and all. It may be a little too frank for tweens and young teens, but older teens will find it instructive about what their moms and dads may be feeling and thinking (and vice versa). There's some swearing and social drinking, and straightforward discussions about the difficulties and joys of child-rearing.

What's the story?

Three adult siblings -- Gil (Steve Martin), Helen (Dianne Wiest), and Susan (Harley Jane Kozak) -- discover there's more growing up to do as they take on the challenges of parenthood. Gil and his wife (Mary Steenburgen) have their hands full with three kids, one of whom's suffering from anxiety. Plus, Gil's job pressures weigh heavily on both their shoulders. Helen, a single mom, is battling a headstrong teenage daughter (Martha Plimpton) and a young son (Joaquin Phoenix) who'd rather lock himself in his room than spend any time with either of them. Susan's husband (Rick Moranis) thinks training their daughter for the rigors of academia starting at preschool is the way to go, but she's not certain. And with their youngest sibling (Tom Hulce) arriving out of the blue, Gil, Helen, and Susan, plus their cranky father (Jason Robards), find that life's about to get even messier.

Is it any good?


It's no mystery that parenthood is a minefield, but what makes director Ron Howard's film masterful is how it acknowledges this truism without relying on the usual tricks. Parents are allowed to be ambivalent; children, defiant. Fathers play favorites; mothers surrender the yoke of wisdom. In short, they're allowed to be human, and not have all the answers. And here, they're funny -- very funny, thanks to a fairly airtight screenplay and a superb cast.

From a superficially-ditzy-but-surprisingly-wise Keanu Reeves (as Helen's daughter's boyfriend) to a painfully flawed Jason Robards, each actor turns in a fully realized performance. Martin anchors them all, with his agitated, kinetic humor that's grounded in real life, keeping the film entirely relatable despite some slightly over-the-top comic gyrations and a predictable ending. Howard steers the entire enterprise with compassion and humor; as with parenting, it's probably the best way to make a great movie.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about each parent portrayed in the film: How do they approach the whole enterprise and what do you think of it? What makes a good parent or a bad one? Does the film realistically depict the highs and lows of raising children?

  • What about the kids? Are they shaped by the way their parents are raising them? Is their metamorphosis -- if any -- in the movie believable? Do moms and dads and their kids eventually reach a place of understanding?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 2, 1989
DVD release date:April 24, 2007
Cast:Dianne Wiest, Mary Steenburgen, Steve Martin
Director:Ron Howard
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:110 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bydrummerchic312 November 1, 2010

good for teens and adults

Some sexual suggestions, teenage drinking and smoking.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 10 years old July 14, 2010

not fore kids

To much sexual behavior i am not joking funny but still.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent of a 2 year old Written byashlew963 February 19, 2010

Didn't get past first 5 minutes...

I didn't get past the first 5 minutes because the usher says "GD" (taking God's name in vain)... mentions mild language but I disagree. Any movie that has that strong of a word shouldn't be described with "mild language".
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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