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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Star Kid is an action-packed adventure in which a shy, sad young boy with little self-confidence becomes a hero. In the process of facing a powerful space alien and saving mankind, Spencer learns courage and the value of trust. Cartoon-like violence fills the screen in many sequences, including a long, climactic battle in which two boys are threatened and attacked by a ferocious, reptilian alien with claws, antennae, and a hideous face. A robotic hero-accomplice appears to be destroyed, and the kids grieve over him. Other than the villain, no one is severely injured or killed. Language includes some insults ("scab juice," "fungus," "butt-wipe") and mild swearing ("damn," "hell," "crap, "turd"). In one comic instance, the boy offers up a litany of euphemisms for having to urinate. Because of the suspense, peril, and crashing mayhem in many scenes, this movie is for kids who clearly understand the difference between make-believe and real violence.
What's the story?
When STAR KID opens, Spencer Griffith (Joseph Mazzello) is a mess. It hasn't been long since his mom died; his dad (Richard Gilliland) doesn't seem to "get" him; and his sister (Ashlee Levitch) is an unsympathetic tease. Spencer is small and shy, which makes him a victim of a major bully (Joey Simmrin) at school, and he just doesn't have the courage to talk to the girl he has an enormous crush on. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Spencer, a battle is ongoing far in outer space. Evil interplanetary thugs, the Broodwarriors, have attacked the Trelkin planet in an effort to capture a fantastical, revolutionary "Cyborsuit," a robotic invention that can alter space warfare. Things change drastically for Spencer when the Cyborsuit escapes the battle, plummets to the earth, and lands in a junkyard not far from the boy's house. It's Spencer who discovers him and learns that "Cy" (voiced by Alex Daniels) can't transport himself; the robot needs Spencer to crawl inside, guide, and operate him. After fun and games with Spencer inside Cy calling the shots -- upending the bully, wreaking havoc on his house and sister -- the adventure begins in earnest. A Broodwarrior lands on earth to retrieve the Cyborsuit, and a fierce battle begins. In an unusual twist, Turbo, the bully, becomes the one person Spencer and Cy can count on. Can Spencer, Cy, and Turbo find the courage and resources to win the day?
Is it any good?
This film is fun for kids who enjoy lots of cartoon-like mayhem; they'll identify with the likable boy who becomes a superhero, if only for a moment. Though the special effects are not sophisticated (the villain is clearly a stunt man in a grotesque spider-reptile suit), they're satisfying enough to sell the story and the peril. And, though the hero is not original -- boy struggling with the death of a parent, bullies, and a girl he likes but can't bring himself to talk to -- Joseph Mazello's sincere performance keeps it fresh. Only recommended for kids who are savvy about real vs. pretend violence.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the bullying in this movie. How did their experience under fire from the Broodwarrior change each of them? What lessons did each learn?
What does Spencer's teacher mean when she says, "If you run away from things you're afraid of ... it just gets worse." How did her handling of the tarantula help illustrate her statement? How do you deal with things you are afraid of? Whom can you talk to about your fears?
The villain Broodwarrior is a combination of many scary creatures seen before in movies. Draw or describe your version of a scary space alien. How hard is it to be original?
- In theaters: January 16, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: May 27, 1998
- Cast: Joseph Mazzello, Alex Daniels, Corinne Bohrer
- Director: Manny Cotto
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: fantasy combat violence and language
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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.