A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this fantasy adventure from Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez is sure to appeal to kids and tweens. Expect some mild insults -- like "lunkhead" and "this sucks" -- and potty humor, mostly regarding a booger (one entire vignette is devoted to the topic). The violence is generally humorous and fantasy based; most is directly related to characters' wishes (people transforming into animals, the above-mentioned booger becoming a giant menace, etc.). On a more serious note, the movie has several thought-provoking messages about bullying, family relationships, and technology.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Toby "Toe" Thompson (Jimmy Bennett) lives in Black Hills, a one-industry town run by technology tycoon Carbon Black (James Spader). Every day, Toby is bullied by Black's daughter, Helvetica (Jolie Vanier), and her crew of middle-school toughs. But life as Toby knows it changes when he's hit with a colorful rock that magically grants wishes -- big (a fortress) or small (never-ending supply of candy bars). But he's not the only one in town with eyes on the rock, and, as the movie's title implies, this tall tale is told in five interrelated SHORTS.
Is it any good?
The "one-man film crew" that is Robert Rodriguez (writer, director, producer, co-editor, composer) returns to his love of kids' imagination in this loopy funfest. Partly inspired by Rodriguez's own five children, the boisterous adventure is perfectly attuned to its audience, who no doubt will spend the entire 89 minutes laughing in delight at a booger monster, a girl bully turning into a male-swatting wasp, an army of crocodiles, parents literally stuck together, a boyfriend told to grow up (he ends up a giant), and much, much more.
Rodriguez's homegrown special effects aren't anything to write George Lucas about, but kids will be too busy reveling in the slapstick antics to notice that the walking CGI crocodiles are kind of unsophisticated. Instead, audiences will focus on the goofy, tween-targeted action. Anchoring the ensemble are newcomer Vanier (a Christina Ricci lookalike) as the deliciously named Helvetica -- even her own pop calls her "Hell" -- and veteran Bennett (who stole an early scene in Star Trek as the young James T. Kirk). Their appealing characters are two of the many reasons kids will love this unpredictable, pleasantly zippy adventure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the kids (mis)use the power of the magical rock. Which characters used the rock for good, and which used it for selfish reasons? How did possessing the rock change the characters?
What's the movie's message about our modern-day obsession with technology and fancy gadgets (like the Black Box)? Do they help us or hurt us in communicating with others?
The relationship between a bully and the person she picks on is one of the movie's main themes. How is bullying portrayed? Do most bullies attack kids physically? What are other ways that bullies can attack?
- In theaters: August 21, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: November 23, 2009
- Cast: Jake Short, Jimmy Bennett, Kat Dennings
- Director: Robert Rodriguez
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild action and some rude humor
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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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.
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