A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that #RealityHigh, set in a California high school, tries to combine laughs with reflections on staying true to yourself, taking the moral high ground, and the shallowness of popularity. It follows a familiar romcom plot in which girl meets boy, loses boy, and (spoiler alert) gets boy back. Along the way, a cast of ethnically diverse characters make choices that will supposedly influence their lifelong behavior and values. Expect a comic view of underage drinking, marijuana use, and partying, including keggers, tequila, drinking games, drunkenness, and bongs (there's even a scene in which the uptight school principal joins in, happy to get stoned with the boys). There's also a lot of swearing, including "s--t," "ass," "f--k," "bitches," "slut," and more. Plus, you can expect verbal bullying, an over-the-top villain, insults like "pig breath," some skimpy clothing, and a few heartfelt kisses. Bottom line? The only surprise here is a wonderfully engaging lead performance by Nesta Cooper.
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What's the story?
Dani Barnes (Nesta Cooper) is passionate about animals and besotted with Cameron Drake (Keith Powers) in #REALITYHIGH. A high school senior, she's a terrific student from a warm, loving family, hoping for a scholarship to UC Davis with its stellar veterinary school. Her BFF is Freddie (Jake Borelli), who carefully hides his more-than-just-friends feelings. Still, Dani knows she's a bit of an outlier -- she's not one of the "hot" girls, and her decades-old crush on Cameron is going nowhere. The real trendsetter at school is a social media star, Alexa Medina (Alicia Sanz), who's jealous of Dani even though Alexa's got Cameron and an ever-attentive tribe of kids who follow her everywhere. Change is coming, however. After Dani and Cameron bond over a dog at the vet clinic where Dani works, the young man finally notices this girl he's known all his life. Swept up by her dream-come-true's attention, Dani quickly moves into the school's inner circle. Popular, now shedding her girl-next-door image for glamour, the teen makes some really bad choices. As a matter of fact, Dani's on the verge of losing her moral compass as she immerses herself in her newfound popularity. Lucky for the smart, likable teen, Alexa's jealous maliciousness helps bring Dani to her senses and learn some valuable lessons about what's important.
Is it any good?
Nesta Cooper shines as Dani, but her charismatic performance can't save this predictable, trite story and an amateurish production that falls short on all counts. Messages are valuable, but they've been delivered before, many times, in a much more compelling fashion. The film lacks pace, energy, cohesiveness, and artistry. One-dimensional characters are the rule. And Dani's downward ethical spiral is ludicrous given the character as she was introduced. Other than Cooper's performance and adorably precocious work from Leah Rose Randall as Dani's little sister (but even that is a worn-out convention), #RealityHigh has little to recommend it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the drinking and marijuana use in #RealityHigh. Was it shown simply as fun and carefree? What consequences, if any, did Dani have for her behavior?
Which story elements are the most predictable in the film? Does predictability bother you in a film, or do you still enjoy the "journeys" that lead to the expected conclusions?
Is this movie generally an accurate portrayal of teen life? Why or why not? What emotions seemed relevant to you? Have you had challenges that were as easily solved as Dani's and Cameron's?
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