A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Same Kind of Different as Me is a faith-centric drama based on the true story of a wealthy family who befriends a homeless man. Relying on both faith and her basic goodness, a woman is able to change lives, promote profound friendships, and inspire social change. Forgiveness, redemption, and the joys of unselfishness are key elements of the story. Very sad events are leavened by heartening ones. Expect some violence when an enraged man uses a baseball bat to menace people; he hits windows, furniture, and other inanimate objects. He also sets a fire, but no one is hurt. An alcoholic character behaves badly and often says racial slurs, including the "N" word. Flashbacks show a young African-American boy threatened and ostracized in a Southern town, again the victim of racial slurs.
What's the story?
As SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME opens, a fragile marriage is threatened. Wealthy art dealer Ron Hall (Greg Kinnear) has made a shameful mistake, and his wife, Deborah (Renee Zellweger), offers him a chance to redeem himself. Actively working in a neglected mission catering to the homeless, Deborah asks her husband to join her. Her unselfishness, gentleness, and ability to communicate with the downtrodden are revelations to Ron. Deborah encourages him to try to connect with an angry African-American man known only as "Suicide" (Djimon Hounsou), who seems beyond help. It takes time, a willingness to reach out with little in return, and Ron's growing awareness of the humanity of the homeless, until a bond can be created. Only then does "Suicide," whose real name is Denver Moore, reveal his deplorable past. Unfortunately, tragedy interrupts the rebuilding of Ron and Deborah's relationship. Denver joins with Ron and his family as they face an uncertain future, realizing how little difference there really is between people of diverse cultures and histories.
Is it any good?
Heartfelt and well-made, this meant-to-be-inspiring movie has positive messages and likable characters but little in the way of originality or depth. The real-life Ron Hall wrote about these events in his same-named book. And as a tribute to his wife -- who had an impact on their community's impoverished citizens and taught Ron and their kids, as well as Denver, how to live meaningful lives -- it's simple and honest.
The real Ron and Denver, as well as the Hall children, are seen during the end credits. And the photographs of some of the important changes to the community that Deborah initiated bolster the movie's messages. But director-writer Michael Carney is content to portray these real-life people with appreciative but broad strokes. Deborah is perfect from start to finish, and while that may be true to who she was, it gives Zellweger nowhere to go as an actress. Other than a noteworthy turn by Jon Voight as Ron's troubled father, some remarkable visuals of how the very rich live in Texas, and lots of worthy people to root for, the film is routine. But it will still probably find its audience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role that faith plays in Same Kind of Different as Me. How does spirituality unite the film's African-American and white characters? Which religious principles does the movie incorporate? What's the meaning of the film's title?
How does the movie promote character strengths like perseverance, gratitude, empathy, teamwork, and humility?
Which characters do you consider role models? Why?
Do you have to be a spiritual/religious person to enjoy this film or faith-based movies in general? Why or why not?
How do flashbacks sometimes help give characters more depth, and stories more texture? From whose memory was this movie primarily told? Did you notice that when Denver was talking about his past, the film used scenes that are known as "flashbacks within a flashback"?
- In theaters: October 20, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: February 20, 2018
- Cast: Djimon Hounsou, Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellweger
- Director: Michael Carney
- Studio: Pure Flix Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements including some violence and language
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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.