A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Themes of family, redemption, and the personal cost of substance dependency.
Positive Role Models
Complex main character is self-centered and dependent on alcohol but also a loving, caring father. Friends and family are supportive and forgiving but put their foot down when necessary.
Love interests represent body diversity. Characters of color are depicted as kind and diplomatic but are featured only in very small roles -- e.g., security, hotel clerk.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
After grunts and moans are heard, a couple is shown in bed, under the covers, shoulders exposed.
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Strong language include "ass," "bullcrap," "crap," "damn," "d--k," "dumbass," "goddamn," "nut sack," "screw you," "s--t," and one use of "f--k up." A child and a teen say "s--t." Exclamation of "Jesus!"
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Beer drinking throughout. A character with an alcohol dependency drinks liquor out of small bottles (this is depicted negatively).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Small Town Wisconsin is a road-trip dramedy about a man with an alcohol dependency (David Sullivan) who takes his 9-year-old son on one last adventure before the boy moves out of state with his mother and stepfather. While it was written by Jason Naczek, the movie has all the hallmarks of one of executive producer Alexander Payne's films: particularly complicated but compelling characters who are going through a rough time as a result of their difficult personalities or problematic life choices but who eventually accept responsibility for their actions. The overall takeaway is sympathy for a dad who can't quite get his act together. A sexual situation is depicted by moaning sounds and a couple seen with bare shoulders under the covers. Adults drink throughout (beer and liquor), and there's regular use of strong language ("d--k," "f--k up," "s--t," etc.), including by children. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Light but sad, this father-son adventure dramedy will break your heart. Phenomenally acted by Sullivan, Wayne Stobierski is a charismatic underdog. He's well-liked but self-centered and probably knows he has an alcohol dependency, but he isn't yet willing to acknowledge the negative impact it's having on his life. He's a conscientious, loving dad to cuddle bug Tyler (be ready for Friedman to become your favorite child actor), but Wayne's shortcomings are strong. The film will definitely prompt you to consider what makes someone a "good" father.
Deidra is moving to Arizona for opportunity -- too far for broke Wayne to visit often. But it's worth noting that director Niels Mueller doesn't portray Deidra or her new husband negatively: The only villain here is Wayne's drinking problem. The issue with the film is that we're seeing Wayne from Wayne's point of view, which is problematic because he's a narcissist. During a custody hearing, the judge says that Wayne has anger management issues, but only the look on Deidra's face validates this statement. Wayne is a hot mess, and yet there's a good chance that children or spouses of those who've struggled with alcohol may feel that the film paints too pretty a picture. Tyler seems to be unfazed by his father's drinking, although the script gives us indications that Tyler is frequently in unsafe situations. Bottom line? Just like Wayne, Small Town Wisconsin has flaws, but the poignancy of the story will stick with you for a long time.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.