Stepmom

  • Review Date: November 11, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 124 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Contrived yet effective family weepie.
  • Review Date: November 11, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 124 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Two characters are shown living together without being married.

Violence

A family member dies of cancer.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

An authority figure counsels a 12-year-old girl to call a boy at school "limp d---." There are a few other curses, as well.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults smoke cigarettes and drink cocktails, though not to the point of drunkenness. Susan Sarandon's character smokes marijuana to deal with her chemotherapy.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film tackles some very grim topics: divorce and death. Though the characters are shown grappling realistically with real problems and doing the best they can in bad situations, the mere fact that the mother in the movie is dying will be too much for younger and very sensitive children. There is some light swearing, drinking, and a character smokes pot to deal with chemotherapy.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Jackie Harrison (Susan Sarandon) is unhappily divorced from Luke (Ed Harris), who's now shacking up with fashion photog Isabel (Julia Roberts), with the two kids shuttled in between the two homes. At first Isabel and Jackie are bitter rivals, and the kids side with Mom. But when Jackie develops fatal cancer, Isabel has to start taking up the slack in the Mommy role.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

At every step of Stepmom, audiences feel director Chris Columbus pulling the strings. The plot twists are as contrived as the swelling strings that fill the soundtrack, engineered in some Hollywood lab to jerk the tears right out of you. And yet it works, mostly due to the stellar acting on display.

Julia Roberts is predictably glowing, Susan Sarandon is confident and real, and the little nippers (Jena Malone and Liam Aiken) are so genuine that it's easy to forget that you're being pulled this way and that by the filmmakers, like a puppet on a string. It's manipulative. But there's enough polish on the film that it works. Ultimately, this is depressing but entertaining, a solid choice for a rainy night when no one feels like laughing.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the characters cope with divorce and a death in the family. Do you think their reactions are realistic or too Hollywood? For kids who have experienced either event, what's missing in this movie? Is there a movie you can think of that's more realistic?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 15, 1998
DVD release date:October 1, 1999
Cast:Ed Harris, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon
Director:Chris Columbus
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Genre:Drama
Run time:124 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:language and thematic elements

This review of Stepmom was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written byliefde1 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 
Teen, 13 years old Written bypianocutie95 May 6, 2009
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

A sweet, sad chick flick!

This movie was sooooo good. It brings up the matter of children coping with divorce. The movie is extremely sad, but it also is very sweet. Definitely a chick flick, though!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written bymme May 20, 2010
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

STEPMOM

Ready or not, Isabel (Julia Roberts) is about to find out what it means to be a mom, better yet, a step-mom, soon after her boyfriend Luke (Ed Harris) pops the question. What makes things more interesting is dealing with Luke’s un-accepting ex-wife, Jackie (Susan Sarandon). In addition, Luke and Jackie’s two children, Anna and Ben, are not fond of the idea of a step-mom. Isabel, a professional photographer consumed by her career, finds that being a mom is not as easy as she thought. Then the rivalry begins between Isabel and Jackie while the children struggle to adjust to new family dynamics. The plot thickens as Isabel learns that Jackie has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. This shocking news becomes the turning point where Jackie and Isabel learn to accept each other and focus on the children. Susan Sarandon does an excellent job portraying the slightly jealous ex-wife and the emotional heartache of not being able to watch your kids grow up. Julia Roberts does well portraying the naïve step-mom desperately trying to gain the children’s acceptance. The background scenes fit perfectly within the context of the characters lives. For instance, the busy city streets and photo studios depict well the lifestyle of Isabel. While, the serene southern style home filled with memories from wall to wall, depicts well the lifestyle of Jackie. The director/producer, Chris Columbus, keeps the continuity of the storyline moving forward through the entire movie. Overall, I think this is a great film that demonstrates some of the real life complexities of divorced families. It also demonstrates the ability people have to love, accept, and work together in the midst of challenging circumstances. Get your tissue box ready, this film is sure to make you laugh and cry.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Essential School Tools