A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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?
This movie is more like a really good long-running episode of The Wonder Years. 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.
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: April 29, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: 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.
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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