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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that despite incidents of violence and cruelty, Slumdog Millionaire is a sweeping, thrilling drama that mature teens will be able to take -- and will probably very much enjoy. There's some extreme violence -- electrocution, murder, and violence perpetrated by, and on, young children -- but it never feels exploitative or simplistic. The film revolves around issues of class (how could a poor "slumdog" like the lead character possibly do so well on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?). and includes many images of modern India, including real -- but still hard-to-take -- depictions of poverty and hopelessness.
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What's the story?
In SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, Jamal (Dev Patel) is an 18-year-old tea service worker for a telecommunications company who has somehow managed to make it to the second-to-last question on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? He's dragged in for questioning by the police, who want to know how he's cheating -- which, in their eyes, is the only way an uneducated boy from the slums like him could possibly be winning. Beaten but unbowed, Jamal tells his interrogators stories from his life that explain why he knows the answers. He also talks about the long-lost love of his life, Latika (Freida Pinto), who he's trying to get in touch with and save through the unlikely mechanism of being on the show.
Is it any good?
Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Millions), this is a bold, big, and beautiful film. It's a rich, gripping tale of heroism, struggle, true love, and unfailing friendship set in the rough-and-tumble world of modern India. Based on the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup, Slumdog Millionaire combines the heady, energetic, and inspired direction of Boyle's earlier films with the heart and humanity of his lesser-known, more recent films; the end result is a knockout of a film. Slumdog Millionaire has the feel and structure of a great Dickensian adventure combined with a bracing, modern look at life in 21st-century India -- and brilliant performances as well. Patel shines as the honest, striving, good-hearted Jamal, while Pinto gets to be far more than just "the girl." Co-star Irfan Khan (whom you may recognize from A Mighty Heart) is also excellent as the police detective who ultimately comes around to standing by Jamal as he tells his story, and Anil Kapoor is terrific as the charming, bullying game show host.
Slumdog Millionaire features some rough stuff -- violence, poverty, exploitation -- but at the same time it has a heart and humanity that shine through even in its darkest moments. And when the finale unfolds, it feels truly earned considering all that's gone before. Slumdog Millionaire may seem a little tough to get into at first with its blunt depiction of the cruelty of life and the switches between English and Hindi throughout the film, but it unfolds like a plain-spoken thing of wonder; it's easily one of the best films of 2008.
Talk to your kids about ...
Discuss the nature of Indian society -- from class to religious conflict to the nation's role as a growing economic superpower -- and about the way Slumdog Millionaire depicts hard work, good morals, and quick wits. Are they seen as virtues?
What are the differences -- and similarities -- between Indian culture and American culture. How are they different? What do they have in common?
What does the movie say about the growing process of globalization? What does it mean when British customer service calls are answered in India? Or when an English game show becomes immensely popular in a completely different nation?
- In theaters: November 12, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: March 31, 2009
- Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Irrfan Khan
- Director: Danny Boyle
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some violence, disturbing images and language
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