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Parents' Guide to

The Art of Self-Defense

By Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Quirky, mature comedy tackles the illusion of masculinity.

Movie R 2019 104 minutes
The Art of Self-Defense Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 14+

Never really fulfils its potential

Not really suitable for kids under 14yrs (Multiple sexual practices referenced or suggested and a suicide) and even then , if my sons reaction was anything to go by, they will probably not enjoy it because it's not very good. Mediocre would be a generous description for this movie. It raised the odd chuckle but really struggles with fulfilling its potential as a black comedy. The script is far less accomplished than it presumably set out to be and even the presence of Jesse Eisenberg can't save it. It's a shame, because the overall premise had potential.
age 18+

UNFUNNY, juvenile and lazy.

They try to go for a quirky, dark version of "Napoleon Dynamite" humor, but almost everything falls flat as stupid clashes with the pathetic reasoning of why any of this could even possibly happen in the first place. I didn't get Napoleon the first time, but came to appreciate it later. This movie, however is so nporly executed and explained, that there is no immersion, and past the first few acts, little to no likable players. To top it off, the ending is just so garbage and a face slap that you'll wonder why you even bothered. Wanted to love the concept, but this isn't a dark comedy, it's just depressingly dumb. Note that there are female nude pictures in the movie for younger viewers and masturbation.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (4 ):

Set in a flat, pale city and spoken in deliberately artificial dialogue, this quirky dark comedy has an unusual rhythm that grows slowly more hilarious, but only for those who manage to tune into it. Given that its moments seem designed to be off-putting on first look -- then funny on subsequent looks --The Art of Self-Defense seems destined to become a cult classic. Written and directed by Riley Stearns, the movie, which is about the myth of masculinity, runs wild with the idea that there is no real, true definition of what's "masculine," and characters who try to nail it down are made to look ridiculous. The idea works (and stays funny) all the way to the end, even as Casey makes his own drastic transformation.

Anna is the wisest addition to the movie; she's a woman who's both tougher and cleverer than the men around her, but she still labors under rules invented by men. She wants to attain the level of black belt, but Sensei continuously denies it, claiming that she's not "man" enough. But the perfectly cast Eisenberg is the movie's key; he fits this role like a comfortable karate gi, fearlessly embracing an inner weakness and making it all the more satisfying when confidence comes shining through. (The Art of Self-Defense would make a great double bill with another excellent Eisenberg black comedy, The Double.) It won't appeal to everyone, but this is a solid pick for those seeking something a little different.

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