By Kari Croop,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Reimagined slave epic is violent but stirs worthy questions.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Love, survival, and family are major themes that rise above the series' otherwise sobering realities. The series also stresses the importance of honoring the past as a means to moving forward.
Positive Role Models
The series offers a mix of positive and negative role models, but the central characters as a whole exemplify courage, integrity, and perseverance. Their shared story of survival is inspiring.
Violence & Scariness
Violent imagery includes crude amputations, decapitations, hangings, beatings, whippings, and the branding of human beings like cattle; several key scenes are graphic in nature, with spurting blood, vomit, and open wounds.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing, implied sex, and simulated rape, though no sensitive parts are shown; discussion of "breeding" human beings like animals.
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Audible language includes "damn," "bastard," and the "N" word.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Social drinking; some characters drink to the point of drunkenness.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Roots (2016) is a remake of the critically acclaimed 1977 miniseries of the same name that won nine Emmys, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award. (Both miniseries are based on Alex Haley's 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family.) The visuals are graphically violent and painfully realistic and range from whippings, hangings, amputations, and human branding to battle scenes involving shootings, stabbings, explosions, and executions. Sexual violence, including rape, is strongly suggested, but no sensitive parts are shown, and audible language includes the "N" word. Some characters drink socially to the point of drunkenness. As brutal as the content is, this update is an excellent conversation starter for families to use to discuss slavery.
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Based on 4 parent reviews
The One True Bum One True Review
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Extremely violent, graphic mini-series is way too much for kids.
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What's the Story?
Based on Alex Haley's best-selling book of the save name, ROOTS (2016) is a remake of the landmark TV miniseries that gripped the nation when it first aired in 1977 and made U.S. television history with record ratings. It follows the story of enslaved African boy Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby) and his eventual descendants, tracing their long journey to eventual freedom after decades of bondage and unspeakable suffering. The ensemble cast includes Oscar winners Forest Whitaker and Anna Paquin, Tony winner Anika Noni Rose, and Golden Globe winner Jonathan Rhys Meyers. LeVar Burton, who played Kunta Kinte in the original miniseries, serves as an executive producer.
Is It Any Good?
If you still haven't seen the groundbreaking TV miniseries that inspired this four-part History Channel reboot, add it to your watch list yesterday. That said, we can tell you that this deeply moving remake is equally excellent. The story is just as powerful, the acting is equally affecting, and the message it imparts is still important -- in some ways, even more so -- nearly 40 years later.
A word of caution: Though it's rated TV-14, the level of violence here is truly graphic, and even adults will have trouble getting through some of the series' toughest moments. But Roots' realistic depictions of what enslaved Africans endured over several generations is essential to understanding the black experience, and older teens who watch will gain critical insight into America's complicated racial history.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the ways in which Roots (2016) depicts violent acts against enslaved Africans and whether it shows too much -- or not enough. What were the realities of life for black people in America's slave era, and how does that compare to the lives of Roots' main characters?
How does Roots (2016) compare to the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries of the same name, and how do both series compare to the book that inspired it? What are the pros and cons of remaking a television classic?
Should Roots (2016) be required viewing for older kids and teens, or is the on-screen violence too graphic to offset the educational value? What lessons do kids stand to learn if their parents let them watch? How does Roots relate to modern-day discussions about race in America?
How do the characters in Roots demonstrate courage, integrity, and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?
- In theaters: May 30, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: August 23, 2016
- Cast: Malachi Kirby, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anna Paquin, Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne
- Directors: Bruce Beresford, Thomas Carter, Mario Van
- Inclusion Information: Black directors, Black actors, Bisexual actors
- Studios: A&E Home Video, Lifetime, History Channel
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Character Strengths: Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 383 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 26, 2022
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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.
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