A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Straight Outta Compton is a biopic about groundbreaking, incendiary rap group N.W.A., whose song "F--k tha Police" caused a huge stir in 1988. On one hand, the group blazed many new trails in music and is still highly acclaimed today, but on the other hand, their behavior doesn't exactly qualify them as positive role models. Expect lots of extremely strong language, with constant use of "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word, and many more. Sexual content includes full-frontal female nudity, some sexual situations/references (oral sex, etc.), and characters with multiple partners. Violent scenes include a riot at a concert, fighting and beating, and general destruction. Some blood is shown, and characters die. Guns are drawn but rarely fired. One major character begins the film as a drug dealer, and cocaine and pot are shown. Characters drink frequently throughout (with no consequences), and drug use and smoking are shown.
What's the story?
In the 1980s, African-American youths in Compton are faced with poverty, police harassment, drugs, and violence. Five friends -- known as Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) -- decide to try their hand at making rap music. Before long, with the help of manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), they become N.W.A. and create one of the most incendiary, game-changing albums of all time. Fans love them as much as the police hate them, but squabbles over money quickly drive the group apart. Dre and Cube struggle to launch solo careers, but Eazy's record label is drying up. He hopes to get N.W.A. back together again, but fate has other plans.
Is it any good?
A group as powerful as N.W.A. deserves a powerful movie; this one captures the energy of the moment, but after a while, it becomes apparent that the filmmakers didn't know how or where to stop. Director F. Gary Gray was there during the time portrayed here, making videos for both Ice Cube and Dr. Dre and making his feature directing debut with Cube's Friday (1995). He was clearly the right man for the job, and the footage of the group's early days and first successes is transporting and immensely powerful.
But perhaps Gray was a bit too close? Perhaps there was pressure to give equal weight to all the players, and to respectfully depict Eazy-E's 1995 AIDS-related death? As STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON reaches the mid-1990s, it becomes awkwardly torn between showing enough detail and showing too much; it could have been a fascinating long miniseries or a much stronger, shorter movie. But what's here will thrill music fans, especially those who wish to learn more about the old school.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Straight Outta Compton's violence. Does it seem believable that violence could creep into the music industry from the streets? Does art reflect life, or vice versa? Do different types of movie violence have different impact on kids?
Why were people so scared of N.W.A. back in the 1980s? What did they think would happen? Are people scared of anything similar today?
How much sex is shown in the movie? Why do sex and the music business seem to go hand in hand? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Why do you think drinking, smoking, and drugs are so prevalent in the movie? Are they glamorized? How much of a role do substances play in the music industry?
- In theaters: August 14, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: January 19, 2016
- Cast: O'Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell
- Director: F. Gary Gray
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 147 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence, and drug use
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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.