Step Sisters

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Step Sisters Movie Poster Image
Dance rivalry tale has racial themes, drinking, cursing.
  • PG-13
  • 2018
  • 107 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Values promoted: teamwork, cultural diversity, setting aside racial stereotypes, rooting for one another. Encourages taking time to find a life's passion, not falling into trap of what others expect.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Central heroine grows in awareness of her own life path, doesn't settle for what others want for her. Young college women of diverse ethnicity learn about putting stereotypes aside, accepting everyone's individuality. Rigid parental figures learn a lesson about over-structuring their child.

Violence

A young woman comically threatens a rival with a taser. A zombie-themed college party has kids wearing grotesque costumes and makeup. A tussle among friends.

Sex

Kissing, embracing. A few gay and lesbian references. Sensual dancing; making out at party. Obstructed by shrubbery, characters engage in sex. 

Language

Frequent cursing and obscenities: "goddamn," "s--t," "ass," "bitches," "butt," "balls," "Jesus Christ," "t-ts," "d--k." One use each of "f--k" and the "N" word.

Consumerism

Visuals of or references to Coca-Cola, Heineken, Advil, Dunkin' Donuts, Breyer's ice cream, KeVita, Sprite.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

College-age kids drink to excess, talk about getting drunk, mention marijuana. Several party scenes include lots of alcoholic beverages.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Step Sisters is a comedy/musical that uses step-dancing to illustrate rivalry and racial stereotyping that occurs among young adults -- in this instance, an African-American sorority and an almost all-white sorority on a fictional college campus. Expect lots of dancing, black-versus-white dueling stereotypes, and many bumbling practices before "the big competition." Clumsy dancers will become precision steppers, racial barriers will fall, romance will blossom. Alcohol-fueled parties, along with busy taverns, are the core of the students' social life. Drunkenness is routine. Language is coarse, with frequent swearing (e.g., "s--t," "ass," "Jesus Christ," one use of "f--k" and the "N" word) and sexual conversation ("t-ts," "d--ks," "bite off nipple," "schlong"). It's all meant to be fun, with a few important life lessons included to redeem the clownery. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRonnie86 June 15, 2020

We liked it

My daughter who is 9 and I watched this movie. She loved the stepping part of it. It had some controversy that I have seen in my own college of a group saying w... Continue reading
Adult Written bylacandace555 January 26, 2020

Starts Important Conversations About Race

Racist statements are made; unfair situations are depicted. But the movie’s message is that these things shouldn’t be. To satirize something, you have to expose... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byrebecca517 January 29, 2018

Imperfect, but Entertaining and a Conversation-Starter

I'd like to preface all of this by saying that this movie will of course be controversial. Any movie regarding potential cultural appropriation, racial ste... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byloveJesus May 2, 2019

catchy

too much swearing and sexual dancing, otherwise very catchy and empowering "dances". Fun.

What's the story?

African-American coed Jamilah (a fine Megalyn Echikunwoke) is in a pickle in STEP SISTERS. It seems like she has it all: smarts, popularity, talent as a formidable step dancer, and a heartthrob "wanna-be-black" boyfriend. She's looking forward to Harvard Law School. But unexpected events at Westcott University have left her scrambling for the law school sponsorship she needs. Her problems could be solved, she is told by the Dean of Student Affairs for whom she works, if she can meet a bizarre challenge. All Jamilah has to do is turn an almost all-white group of sorority sisters, who are in danger of losing their charter, into a precision step-dancing team. Reluctantly, Jamilah accepts, but the snooty "mean girl" president of Sigma Beta Beta isn't on board. Not yet. And the "SBBs" are certainly not natural step dancers! It's an oddball setup that leads to jealousies, breakups, and an unexpected romance. And everything becomes dependent upon the results of STEPtacular!, a prestigious step-dancing competition that's only weeks away!

Is it any good?

No points given here for originality or surprises; however, some dynamic dancing and a few earnest performances make it passable. Super-achiever vies with mean girl. Who will win the big contest? To make fun of stereotypes, Step Sisters' filmmakers create typical ones, then try to add some depth to the characters. It works, to a degree. Anchored by Megalyn Echikunwoke in the lead role, the cast appears to be having a wonderful time -- forgoing subtlety for brash fun. And hitting racial biases head on can't ever be considered a total miss.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the racial messages in Step Sisters. Were the filmmakers successful at portraying typical racial stereotypes and then turning them around? Why or why not? What were some of those stereotypes?

  • What makes a movie predictable? When did you know how this movie would end? When did you determine that Dane was not the right man for Jamilah? Are you satisfied when a movie is predicable if the journey taken by the characters is engaging enough? 

  • An interesting concept in this film was "Races can't own things." Tiger Woods, Eminem, and the tennis-playing Williams sisters were used as examples of this insight. Did this concept feel right to you? What are some other examples of the notion?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love to laugh

Themes & Topics

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