A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Shaft is the 2000 reboot of the 1971 original in which Samuel L. Jackson plays the nephew of the original Shaft. There's frequent profanity throughout the movie, including "motherf---er" and the "N" word. The movie centers on Shaft's attempt to bring a wealthy racist white man to justice after he kills an innocent African American man on the sidewalk in front of a nightclub. There's some violence, including dead bodies found on the street, characters thrown out of apartments, characters shot, hit by cars, stabbed in the hand. Marijuana smoking, cigar smoking, drinking. The movie opens with a sex scene montage, with breasts shown. Movie explores themes of racial injustice, both on the street and in the courtroom.
What's the story?
Director John Singleton, whose "Furious" character in Boyz N the Hood shared a lot of Shaft's outlook, has updated the movie and the character. This is a story about John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson), the nephew of the original Shaft (played again in this movie by Richard Roundtree), who is so far from his private detective uncle's commitment to independence that he's a policeman. But when a corrupt system lets a rich racist murderer jump bail, Shaft throws his badge at the judge like a ninja weapon and goes out on the street to see that justice is done.
Is it any good?
This movie gets four stars just for coolness. Samuel L. Jackson, the Armani leather coat, and the Oscar-winning theme song are a match made in heaven, and it's just plain popcorn-movie fun to see them all work it together.
The script is uneven and filled with holes, showing evidence of reported on-set disagreements between the producer, director, and star. Reportedly, too, Jeffrey Wright's performance as drug dealer Peoples Hernandez was so exciting that the movie was reworked to give him more screen time. That is easy to believe, because he's electrifying. That contributes, however, to the difficulty in managing all the plot threads. Efforts to bring the two bad guys together, the Dominican drug dealer and the preppy racist (Christian Bale) may provide some interesting moments, especially when the drug dealer starts networking in a holding cell, asking the preppy for his business card, but it slows the story down. But Singleton knows that when things waver, all he has to do is cut back to Jackson and the theme song to keep the audience happy, and it works remarkably well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Shaft knows when to follow the rules and when to break them, and what would happen if someone with a less-perfectly honed sense of justice were to break as many rules (and noses) as Shaft does.
How does the movie explore institutional racism? How is this different from the outright racism of Walter Wade Jr.?
What would be the challenges in rebooting a classic movie?
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