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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Stargirl offers a gentle entrée into high school life for tween viewers, and its "be yourself" message is potentially helpful for many of them as well. Based on the YA novel of the same name, the title character is a new girl to school who is eccentric and nonconformist but manages to be widely accepted anyway. In staying true to herself, despite peer pressure to change and better "fit in," she shows new boyfriend Leo, a shy kid who flies under the social radar, the value of believing in yourself. Stargirl and Leo hold hands and share several kisses. Leo remembers being pushed to the ground by bullies, who cut a tie his dad had given him in half. High school football players are knocked to the ground, and one is carried off in an ambulance. Teens are shown to be respectful and open with each other and the adults in their lives.
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What's the story?
When a free-spirited teen named STARGIRL enrolls in a small-town high school, her presence has ripple effects and will change the life of shy kid Leo. Stargirl (2016 America's Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal) has been homeschooled and doesn't dress or act the way other kids do. But she quickly wins their affection when she takes to the field at halftime during a football match and sings a folksy school-spirit tune with her ukulele. The team scores a touchdown immediately after, and Stargirl takes on the aura of a good luck charm for the entire school. When she starts dating Leo (Graham Verchere), an unassuming boy also being raised by a single mother, his cachet at the school goes up. He's happy to finally fit in, but that's not who Stargirl is. Their friendship will teach him, and others at the school, the value of acceptance, kindness, and integrity.
Is it any good?
Stargirl's messages are positive ones for tween viewers, who will be drawn in thanks to the popularity of the book and the novelty of the film debut of VanderWaal. So, first things first: the young star gives a charming performance and proves she can act as well as sing. Co-star Verchere and a diverse supporting cast are equally charming. Fans of VanderWaal or the book likely won't be too put off by significant changes to the original story, the film's uneven pace, or some corny magical undertones.
Stargirl could be called the High School Musical of misfits and underdogs. But considering the majority of real-life teenagers are probably a lot more like Leo, Kevin, and even Stargirl than Troy, Sharpay, and the HSM gang, the film may actually be the more representative high school movie. There's no shortage of genre staples, including awkward encounters at school, football games, and the obligatory school dance. Stargirl falls into a growing body of films, like the HSM series, that show teens to be kinder, more genuine, and more accepting than the '80s screen teens of their parents' generation in, say, The Breakfast Club or Footloose. And while their typical teen identity issues are magnified in the age of social media, a minor theme in Stargirl, they're shown here to also benefit from healthier relationships with their parents. That, and the '80s musical references, make the film an okay watch for the whole family.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie Stargirl compares with the book. What's changed, and how do these changes affect the story and characters?
Classmates think Stargirl is a good luck charm for their school. Do you believe individuals can bring good or bad luck? Why or why not?
What did you think of Stargirl's winning speech about patience in the digital age? Do you agree? Why or why not?
Why does Leo say to fit in he needs to "disappear"? Have you ever felt that way?
- On DVD or streaming: March 13, 2020
- Cast: Grace VanderWaal, Graham Verchere, Karan Brar
- Director: Julia Hart
- Studio: Disney+
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Integrity
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: November 9, 2020
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