That's What I Am

  • Review Date: March 21, 2012
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Message movie about tolerance has a few mature themes.
  • Review Date: March 21, 2012
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 101 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

There's no question that this is a message movie and themes abound, about tolerance, being true to who you are, and defining yourself as that which you enjoy, sticking up for others, the importance of human dignity and the right to privacy, making the right choices, and that it's okay to do things your own way.

Positive role models

Andy starts out as the boy who wants to fit it to avoid bullies, but realizes that not sticking up for others feels worse than getting harassed. He learns a lot about being true to his own gifts and appreciating others for who they are -- even if they sit in "geek corner" at lunch. Mr. Simon is a model teacher full of principles. For the year 1965 this is a pretty integrated school; Andy is white and one of his best friends is African American.

Violence

Acts of eighth grade bullying and harassment include punching, threatening, whipping a girl with a jacket (she gets cut by the zipper), spraying water on someone's pants crotch, knocking a boy off a bike, stealing money, and giving wedgies. Mentions that a boy had his head dunked in a toilet and his tooth broken. A father says that he beat his son after he got in trouble at school. Andy kicks a bully in the groin. Andy's father asks if he was ever touched inappropriately by his teacher.

Sex

Andy talks about wanting to kiss a girl in school who's gone steady with a number of boys in his class already. He calls her a "make-out artist." Eventually he has a summer of "glorious" make-out sessions with her; the audience only sees the first couple kisses.

Language

"Bitchin'," "ass" a few times, "screw it," "hell," "dammit," "go to hell." Some name calling: "ginger," "homo," and a girl is given "cootie" as a middle name. And the time period-appropriate use of "negro."

Consumerism

A classic Skippy peanut butter commercial is shown.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A kid's father drinks a beer, plus "where are they now" end credits that mention someone smoking marijuana and not being heard from again.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that amidst the many positive messages this coming-of-age movie tries to convey -- about being true to yourself and sticking up for others for starters -- there are a few mature themes. Eighth graders (in 1965) are bullied with punches and threats and one girl is whipped by a jacket. After a teacher sticks up for her a rumor circulates about him being a "homo" and parents threaten the principal to take action against him; he refuses to say whether he's gay or not out of principle. Andy's dad asks him at the dinner table if he was ever touched inappropriately while his mother tells him that "sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Simon's character." Throughout the movie Andy tries to court a girl known as a "make-out artist" and eventually gets kissed and goes steady with her.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

It's 1965 and popular-enough Andy (Chase Ellison) is in the eighth grade trying hard not to make waves so he's not picked on by the bullies. So he's horrified when his favorite teacher Mr. Simon (Ed Harris) pairs him with the biggest geek in school -- literally a giant redhead everyone calls Big G (Alexander Walters) -- for a school project. Now he has to brave "geek corner" at lunch to get his project done. But he's got other problems. The girl of his dreams, Mary Clear (Mia Rose Frampton), says that she like him -- great -- but her last boyfriend was the biggest bully of them all. Suddenly both school work and the pursuit of a first kiss are both dangerous endeavors. But the bullies set out to make an example of more than just Andy. When Mr. Simon sticks up for a mistreated student they retaliate by circulating a rumor that could threaten his career.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

If you're playing message movie bingo at home with squares for battling intolerance, being true to yourself, world peace, getting along better with parents, facing fears, standing up for others ... you'd be a winner with this movie. It's not a terrible thing, but that lack of focus is what keeps this sweet little movie from being a really good sweet little movie. It's more like a really good long-running episode of The Wonder Years.

If you're looking for a renter for 10-year-olds, though, THAT'S WHAT I AM is an inspired choice that will get kids talking about its lofty themes and their school experiences. Not such a bad thing at all.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the way that tolerance is explored in this movie. What does it have to do with each main character? Stanley says that prejudice means different things to different people. What does he mean?

  • This is a coming-of-age movie set in 1965. How are Andy's experiences the same as what middle schoolers face today? How are they different? Was it weird, for instance, that no one had a cell phone and Andy had a paper route?

  • Growing up means exploring who you are. What are your favorite movies about kids discovering their gifts? Does it inspire you to write in your journal more or study harder?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 29, 2011
DVD release date:August 16, 2011
Cast:Chase Ellison, Ed Harris, Molly Parker
Director:Michael Pavone
Studio:Vivendi
Genre:Drama
Topics:Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:for thematic material throughout, language and some bullying.

This review of That's What I Am 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.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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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.

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Parent of a 9 year old Written byblue_orca May 23, 2014
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

10 year old wasn't ready for this

We chose this movie for family movie night due to the PG rating. Our daughter (who just turned 10) recently wrote an essay about bullying so we thought she would be okay with the theme. We ended up having to turn the movie off because she got so upset. She was especially bothered by the imagery of the girl being hurt by a bully and the intolerance of the bully's father toward someone who is rumored to be homosexual. She is a pretty sensitive girl but I would recommend waiting until age 12 or 13.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent of a 10 year old Written byLou186000 May 11, 2014
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

good movie with some heavy themes

The synopsis of *That's What I Am" here at commonsensemedia.org is pretty complete, yet I managed to only gloss over it as I hunted for something family-friendly to stream via Netflix on family movie night. I simply noticed the "Age 10" label and we went with it. No regrets, really, but it ended up being a movie we paused a few times to allow for parenting movie breaks. First, the bullying depicted is particularly cruel with moments of real brutality, at least for kids. Though a well-versed movie goer may be able to quickly identify more intense other depictions of bullying in other movies, this one still provided a clear snapshot of how horrible bullying is and how courageous the victims have to be in order to survive and overcome. Second, I *completely* glossed over the bit about "homo" in the synopsis. Left to my own devices I would have waited a bit longer to explain homosexuality to my daughter (I'd already marked the calendar to have that chat on her 40th birthday). Still it was a good discussion we had and I really admire how the topic was handled in the film, a message that tolerance is the ideal, and a recognition that intolerance may always be around. Age 10 may well be the appropriate age for this film as my daughter was able to handle all the heavy themes. Still, I wouldn't have minded waiting another year or so before seeing this film with her.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 16 years old Written bySteffyRoxx June 7, 2012
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Okay

It's good. It does give a message of making out at the young age of 12. I'm 16 and I personally think the make-out artist girl is a child hoe. Famous for being steady with many boys is not something to be proud of.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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