Stirring teen movie has adult themes, antisemitic bullying.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that School Ties is an early 1990s drama set in the 1950s about a Jewish teen (Brendan Fraser) who gets a football scholarship to an elite boys' prep school. He is a good role model in showing integrity in the face of others' bigotry and bad behavior. The cast also includes well-known names like Matt Damon, Chris O'Donnell, and Ben Affleck. Antisemitism is expressed by both adults and youngsters. Most older kids will understand that the movie aims to communicate how wrong this behavior is, but parents may want to discuss the topic further. There's smoking and a scene involving underage drinking, occasional sexual references, and a kiss on the lips and full nudity from behind during a boys' shower scene. Frequent strong language includes "s--t," "ass," and "bitch," as well as racial slurs such as "hebe," "kike," and the "N" word. A teen has "a nervous breakdown" caused by a bad French grade and is seen in great distress laying on the floor. This drama has adult themes that may not be appropriate for children and younger teens.
Racial slurs and more cursing than implied by review
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What's the Story?
Set in the 1950s, SCHOOL TIES centers on high school quarterback David Greene (Brendan Fraser), who's offered an amazing opportunity when he gets a scholarship to an upper-crust prep school. He makes a name for himself on the football field -- as well as plenty of new friends -- but he's forced to hide his Jewish identity to get by. Everything changes when envious classmate Charlie (Matt Damon) uncovers David's secret.
Is It Any Good?
This stirring movie has an important message about freedom of religion and fitting in, with bigotry exposed as a result of ignorance and cowardice. Fraser leads School Ties' superb cast, which also includes Damon, Chris O'Donnell, and Ben Affleck. If the movie has a weakness, it's in the recycling of some of the story elements. The movie feels similar to other prep school dramas from the same era (such as Dead Poets Society), in which the worldview of sheltered schoolboys is challenged. But to its credit, it's not a simple good vs. evil story. Characters are complex and nuanced, and the film tries to balance the antisemitic tag slapped on the prep school boys with an understanding of the tremendous pressure placed on them to become carbon copies of their parents. Although it may sympathize, the movie never excuses the boys' racist behavior.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the bigotry depicted in School Ties. Does the movie have any messages about bigoted behavior? Can you think of instances when it's questioned by the characters?
David shows integrity and strong personal values in the way he behaves. Why is integrity an important character trait? What values do you think he expresses? What values are important to you?
The movie shows the benefits and powers of privilege. What are some of the less positive aspects of privilege? Do you think it's a balanced representation?
- In theaters: September 18, 1992
- On DVD or streaming: August 13, 2001
- Cast: Brendan Fraser, Chris O'Donnell, Matt Damon
- Director: Robert Mandel
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, High School
- Character Strengths: Integrity
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language
- Last updated: March 5, 2023
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