A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive Role Models
Teens are bright young people who work together.
Movie centered on White suburban teen brother and sister Nolan and Mae. Mae is dating Gordo, an African American who has just joined a rock band and plays cello. In one scene, an African American woman runs a pawn shop.
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Violence & Scariness
Some sci-fi fantasy violence and imagery. One of the lead characters creates a series of bobby traps made out of knives and broken mirror shards to stop the monster that's pursuing him across parallel worlds. Characters become possessed by dark smoke and turn evil. The uncle of the lead teen characters is obsessed with Y2K (the movie takes place during December of 1999), and buys a rifle at a pawn shop, shoots it later.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teen dating drama -- breakups, etc.
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"Crap" used a few times. Teen sibling name-calling like "doink" and "turd."
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Products & Purchases
One of the characters announces that they need to go to Sam's -- but the Sam's they mean is actually a pawn shop and not the big box store.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teen girl is asked by her boyfriend to hide a bag of pot and a pipe in her room; it's later discovered by her teen brother. Wine drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Portal Runner is a 2021 YA sci-fi in which a teen who can travel through parallel worlds must save his family from the evil chasing after him. Expect some action violence, including scenes in which the lead character creates traps made out of mirror shards and knives as a way to stop the person who's chasing after him through one portal after the next. Character shoots a rifle. A teen girl keeps a bag of pot and a pipe hidden in her room for her boyfriend. Wine drinking. Teen sibling name-calling like "doink" and "turd" as well as words like "crap." Some tween and teen issues happening throughout, including breakups with significant others, sibling rivalries, peer pressure, and arguing with parents. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a book-based Y2K fantasy sci-fi with a low budget that's balanced out by the acting and story. Portal Runner establishes the time (December 1999) through signposts like the screechy sounds of internet dial-up and an uncle who's obsessed with the cataclysms that await society when the year 2000 hits in just a few days, but it devotes a fair amount of time to evergreen teen and tween topics like dating and breaking up, peer pressure, angst, sibling rivalries. These side stories work, and maybe even help to distract from the cheesy special effects that do as much to give the movie a '90s vibe as an NSYNC poster on the wall and the references to "The ShamWow Guy," for better or worse.
There's nothing especially groundbreaking about it, but the movie is entertaining for what it is. Unlike so many low-budget movies, the acting does a lot of the heavy lifting to keep the story engaging enough, particularly from the actors playing the teens, Elise Eberle and Sloane Morgan Siegel. The writing and direction also keep a seamlessness to the story so that the teen topics rooted more in reality don't seem shoehorned into a fantastical story about travel through parallel worlds. Having these positive qualities in a low-budget movie is obviously much better than having top-notch multi-million-dollar special effects budgets for a weak story and poor acting, and Portal Runner overachieves in this regard, and makes the best out of what it had to work with.
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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.