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 British boarding-school comedy will probably appeal most to teens who enjoy quirky and/or independent films -- though they won't find any positive role models or messages here. Although it's all played for laughs, the students engage in inappropriate behavior like selling black-market goods (including vodka) and coming up with illegal ways to save their school from ruin. There's also some salty language (though "hell" and "whore" are probably the worst of it), moderate sexuality (girls walk around in lingerie, and there's a brief glimpse of an adult man's naked bum), and a fair amount of drinking among the faculty.
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What's the story?
Meet the young ladies of ST. TRINIAN'S, "the worst school in Britain." Unlike the posh (or magical, in the case of Hogwarts) British boarding schools that American audiences are used to, St. Trinian's is a scary place for girls gone wild. In this updated adaptation of Ronald Searles' cartoons about the humorously terrifying fictional school, straight-laced Annabelle (Talulah Riley) is being forced to attend St. Trinian's because it's run by her batty aunt Camilla (Rupert Everett in drag). It turns out that the minister of education (Colin Firth) wants to make an example of the failing school, which is deep in debt, but the girls formulate an elaborate scheme to swipe a famous Vermeer painting, sell it, and save St. Trinian's.
Is it any good?
A huge hit in the UK, St. Trinian's comedy translates fairly well across the pond, but a familiarity with British teens and colloquialisms helps. Of the girls, the clear stand out is Head Girl Kelly (Gemma Arterton, who played Strawberry Fields in The Quantum of Solace and is clearly headed for leading roles. But the movie is considerably bolstered by the supporting players (Everett, Firth, Russell Brand, and Stephen Fry) and a memorable soundtrack dominated by Lily Allen.
The movie includes several inside jokes -- the best being the many references to Pride and Prejudice, which features Firth walking across a field wearing a sopping-wet white shirt. Everett's Camilla is an obvious but amusing dig at Prince Charles' wife, and Brand's Flash, a petty criminal who instructs the girls in the criminal arts, is, as always, creepily charming. U.S. teens may not get all of the English jokes, but it's always fun to see underdog misfits triumph.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way British high school culture is depicted in the movie. Are there similar social castes and cliques in American high schools?
Boarding schools are a much bigger part of British society than American society. How are boarding schools depicted in most American movies?
Although the movie is a comedy, there are a lot of outlandishly negative messages about teenage behavior. What would the consequences of this kind of behavior (drinking, sexuality, etc.) be in real life?
- In theaters: October 9, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: January 26, 2010
- Cast: Colin Firth, Lena Headey, Rupert Everett
- Director: Oliver Parker
- Studio: NeoClassics Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, drug and alcohol content, sexual material and language
For kids who love quirky movies
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