A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this futuristic action drama with a heart is equal parts Rocky and RoboCop. There are tons of brutal (if gripping) scenes of robot combat, some of which gets pretty intense. And it's not just the robots who get into brawls; a beating leaves a key character bloodied. One of the main characters (played by Hugh Jackman) is pretty abhorrent when the movie begins; he's introduced as an irresponsible mess who can't be bothered to care for his own son. He drinks and swears in front of the boy (words include "s--t" and "damn") and even goes so far as to "sell" him (or at least his parental rights) -- though he does change over the course of the movie, which ultimately has a message about redemption and forgiveness.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
It's 2024, and one-time boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) has no shame. He owes everyone money, and he abandoned his son, Max (Dakota Goyo), long ago. All he cares about is the next pay-off at the next match he arranges for the two-ton boxing robots that he pieces together from scrap parts. It's a life, if not a fulfilling one. But then his ex-girlfriend dies, leaving his son alone. His ex's sister (Hope Davis) desperately wants to adopt Max, so Charlie sees an opening: Why not make a deal with her husband for $100,000 for signing his parental rights over? But first Max must stay with Charlie until his aunt and uncle return from a European tour. Charlie hopes to leave his son with the daughter of his old coach (Evangeline Lilly), but Max isn't having any of it: He wants to join Charlie on the road. Before they know it, they're training what appears to be a genuine, previous-generation model championship fighter called Atom. But there's more than a bout at stake.
Is it any good?
REAL STEEL doesn't break new cinematic ground; it's an amalgam -- like the robots featured in it -- of many other movies (imagine Rocky meeting RoboCop). Can the audience predict what comes next, considering that it borrows so much from every other fight film (with a little father-son drama thrown in for good measure)? Duh.
Yet REAL STEEL is surprisingly enjoyable -- as long as you dial down your expectations. Yes, it's shlocky, but Goyo and Jackman share a believable chemistry, and the young actor is just plain terrific. (Lilly doesn't have much to work with, though what she does reminds us how great she is.) It's hard to believe how carried away you can get cheering on a pair of robots in a ring. Expect it to happen, so our advice is to just go with it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Charlie and Max's relationship. How do they compare to other fathers and sons you've seen in the media? Are they relatable characters? Role models?
How do you feel about boxing, especially when it's all-out like the fights choreographed here? Does the violence have less impact since the robots are the ones primarily involved?
- In theaters: October 7, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: January 24, 2012
- Cast: Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Hugh Jackman
- Director: Shawn Levy
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 126 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some violence, intense action, and brief language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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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.
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