A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has intense battle violence with many deaths. Everyone in the Alamo is killed (made clear at the very beginning of the movie). Characters drink and smoke and use some strong language, including insults like "catamite" that might be unfamiliar to today's audiences. There is a sexual situation with a hint of coercion. A character refuses to free his slave, saying, "You're my property until I die."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Dennis Quaid stars as General Sam Houston in this retelling of the famous 1836 battle, in which Mexico's Santa Anna and his troops battle against the Americans at the Alamo Mission during the Texan War of Independence. Among the Americans fighting in the battle over the Texas territory are Jim Bowie (Jason Patric) and Davy Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton). The battle goes on for days, and American enforcements are sent for, but the Mexicans manage to scale the walls of the mission-turned-fort before Houston and his troops arrive.
Is it any good?
There is only one reason to see THE ALAMO, and it is Billy Bob Thornton. His portrayal of Davy Crockett is magnificently vibrant, fully imagined, and breathtakingly evocative of the essence of the American hero. The battle sequences are well staged, putting the audience in the center of the action. And the movie address racism, with slaves talking about whether they would be better off as Mexicans, and Hispanic Texans explaining why they chose to fight the Mexicans.
Despite all of that, however, the movie just does not work. The narrative is so muddled and the pace so choppy that we never connect with the characters or their cause. It makes the fatal mistake of assuming that it is enough to put American icons on one side and a choleric popinjay of a general who wears a uniform out of a Friml operetta, barks at his subordinates, and preys on young women on the other. It isn't. This is not a fight about religious freedom or taxation without representation or stopping a despotic marauder. It is a fight over who will own the land that wasn't theirs to begin with. And it is hard to cheer for the independence of the "Texians" when we know they're just going to end up part of America anyway.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it made such a difference when Travis picked up the cannonball. What did Travis mean when he said, "Texas has been a second chance for me. We will sell our lives dearly?" Why didn't Travis and Bowie get along? How did Crockett's understanding of what he represented to his fans affect his decision about how to respond? How did the white and non-white characters see their priorities differently? How does this story relate to current conflicts in Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan?
- In theaters: April 9, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: September 28, 2004
- Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Dennis Quaid, Jason Patric
- Directors: John Lee Hancock, John Sayles
- Studio: Touchstone Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sustained intense battle sequences.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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