Teenage Badass

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Teenage Badass Movie Poster Image
Fun, authentic band comedy has underage substance abuse.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 99 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

If you really want something, you've got to persevere and do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No strong role models or positive representations. 

Violence

Two potential attackers are roughed up to subdue them.

Sex

Crass sexual gestures, jokes, requests. Relationship between band's lead singer and his girlfriend is a strong part of the plot; another band member's marriage is a recurring joke. A developing romance is a subplot. Kissing.

Language

Constant use of "f--k," which lead character's mother addresses as unnecessary in a funny way. Strong language also includes "ass," "a--hole," "bitch," "blow job," "c--t," "goddamn," "hell," "motherf----r," "needle-d--k," "pr--k," "s--t," and the "N" word.

Consumerism

A wealthy man is shown living large, having power, getting women, but he's also portrayed as a jerk. The core characters aren't driven by a pursuit of money.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs are smoked, bonged, popped, chewed, snorted nonstop by main characters. (Potential spoiler alert!) Lead singer seems to be always high, which eventually leads to problems for everyone, and he goes to rehab. Characters smoke and drink; many scenes take place in a bar. Main character is a minor who smokes, drinks, is given drugs by older members of the band; at one point he is successfully pressured into taking a drug that neither he nor the giver knows the identity of.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Teenage Badass is a coming-of-age rock 'n' roll comedy set in 2006 Phoenix that follows a band led by a drug-fueled lead singer (Evan Ultra). Written, directed, produced by, and starring musicians, the movie portrays outlandish situations that have a clear ring of truth to them -- including the heavy-duty drug use. Substances are constantly smoked, inhaled, snorted, and popped; many of the characters also smoke cigarettes. This includes 19-year-old main character Brad (Mcabe Gregg), who's allowed in bars, served, provided, and pressured into drinking and drug abuse. Brad's mother (Julie Ann Emery) humorously speaks up as a reminder that this -- and the characters' frequent use of the "F" word -- is unacceptable (other strong language includes "c--t" and the "N" word). The movie does have a message that drugs are destructive, but not until after we've watched how much fun the band mates have while they're high. Characters kiss and make crass sexual gestures and jokes, and relationships are part of the plot.

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What's the story?

Drumming is 19-year-old Brad's (Mcabe Gregg) life -- other than helping his mother (Julie Ann Emery) clean houses. When he gets a shot at joining a cool band for an audition to perform on a local morning news show, he does whatever it takes to make it happen, becoming a TEENAGE BADASS. But are the other band members -- including lead singer Kirk Stylo (Evan Ultra) -- equally committed to succeeding, or will living like rock stars interfere with their ability to actually become rock stars? 

Is it any good?

Twistedly funny and oddly authentic, this hilarious take on aspiring "stoner rockers" is pretty mature for teens but still fantastic. The question everyone will be asking is: Who are director Grant McCord and stars Mcabe Gregg and Evan Ultra, and why haven't we heard of these prodigies before? Answer: Maybe you'd know if you lived in Phoenix, considering that the script was written by Phoenix-based musicians McCord and Matthew Dho (who has a supporting role as a recording studio lackey) to reflect what it's like to be in a local band and how the members are really at the mercy of the lead singer/songwriter. Speaking of whom, Ultra (lead singer Kirk Stylo) is also a Phoenix musician who supplies all of the truly original songs and demonstrates great comic timing in his debut, lifted even higher by his cast mates.

Co-star Madelyn Deutch is wickedly funny, embodying the spirit of the girlfriend who controls the lead singer and thus believes she controls the band (or, as is said in the film, she's the Yoko). Gregg (who comes off like a slightly cooler Jessie Eisenberg) anchors the film with a sense of wonder at being a kid who's accepted into a band of older but not wiser musicians; he's also stunned in disbelief at their wild behavior. McCord and Dho wrote the film as a cautionary tale for those who don't hold the leverage, as advice to get contracts in writing, and as a heads-up to be very concerned about who's running the show. To that end, they've created an enjoyable piece of work -- but, as with a rock song, the positive messages may be drowned out by the loud noise.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about one of Teenage Badass's messages: If you want something, do what it takes to make it happen. Do you agree? 

  • Are the characters' drinking, smoking, and drug use glamorized? How does drug use impact the band's ability to achieve their goals? Is it accurate to consider this an anti-drug movie embedded in a pro-drug movie?

  • The filmmakers are actually musicians themselves. What do you think their perspective brings to this story? 

  • How is Brad's mother used as the voice of responsibility? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedies and musicians

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