A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that SPF-18 is a late-teen coming-of-age story and as such addresses sexuality, responsibility, and how to figure out life goals. A professional surfer dies while surfing but the event isn't shown. Teens kiss and discuss a plot to lose virginity, although no nudity or actual sex is shown. (A nude ocean bather is seen from behind at night.) A teen mentions having had sex with her tutor and his girlfriend. A surfer is suspended from competition for taking performance-enhancing drugs. One character deals with the loss of a parent and whether following in a parent's footsteps makes sense. Another has a difficult relationship with her mother. Note that these problems, including to surf or not to surf, are those of privileged Los Angeles teens, and their resolutions are set in a lush Malibu beach house. Language includes "s--t," "piss," and "douche."
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What's the story?
In SPF-18, 18-year-old Penny (Carson Meyer) wants to lose her virginity to her long-time crush, Johnny (Noah Centineo). They've recently evolved into a couple, but only since she began comforting him after the loss of his dad to a surfing accident. Shaken by the death, and now uncertain about his own professional prospects in the sport, Johnny agrees to house-sit for family friend Keanu Reeves (playing himself briefly) at his Malibu bachelor pad on the beach. Penny's narcissistic mother, Linda (Molly Ringwald), is a soap opera actor and seemingly less interested in her pretty but low-key daughter than her out-there niece Camilla (Bianca A. Santos), who has come to visit from boarding school. Penny is a bit disdainful of her cousin's sexuality and social skills but they bond as they join Johnny at the beach house and plot to get Penny and Johnny into bed together. Ash (Jackson White), a musician from Nashville, camps out on Keanu's beach and Johnny's generosity keeps him from being arrested by the local authorities, one of them being Steve (Sean Russell Herman), former surfing champ coached by Johnny's dad until performance-enhancing drug use got him suspended. He helps get Johnny back on his surf board. After sex with Johnny, Penny finds she has more in common with Ash, who gets his music career going during his brief stay on the beach, and Camilla and Johnny realize they are attracted to each other. Steve repents past mistakes and embraces teaching over competing.
Is it any good?
Although frank discussion of sex and use of profanity make it iffy for anyone under the age of 14, the overall quality issue boils down to what kind of movie it wants to be. Does it want to be Sixteen Candles? (Molly Ringwald's presence suggests a tip of the hat to the 1984 film.) The filmmakers seem intent on wrestling with the way teens learn maturity and responsibility, but it all feels manufactured and clumsy. Kids just out of high school are plotting to lose virginity, trying to figure out romantic commitment, trying to be decent people who look out for others, trying to fathom their life's work. Those generalities are all worthy, but the particulars are underwhelming. Does Johnny want to use his dad's long board? Does Ash want to compromise his artistry to the demands of his record company? Does Penny want to make videos? These are dilemmas all of us should be so lucky to face. (Ash HAS a record company!) It feels as if the screenwriter is struggling to manufacture problems where few, if any, actually exist. SPF-18 also has a tone problem. Goldie Hawn's intelligent voice narrates an overlay of wisdom that doesn't exist in the interactions between characters. It's questionable that any narration is necessary.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how neatly all problems are tied up in SPF-18. Does this seem more like a fantasy than a reflection of real-life events? Why or why not?
How much of a role do affluence and the availability of many choices for these teens play in the dilemma of what to do next? How do you think their options compare with the options less-privileged youth face?
Why are movies about surfing and surfers so popular? How does this one compare?
- On DVD or streaming: September 29, 2017
- Cast: Carson Meyer, Noah Centineo, Bianca A. Santos, Jackson White, Sean Russell Herman
- Director: Alex Israel
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 75 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: for sexual material, nudity, language and some drug references
For kids who love coming-of-age tales
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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.