A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The teens learn that they can succeed, even against long odds, if they persevere. Sometimes having just one person care about you can make all the difference. But there are no easy or fast fixes for hard situations, either.
Positive Role Models
The teens come from difficult circumstances, yet they mostly manage to achieve success, often in spite of daunting challenges including homelessness, addiction, abuse, poverty, and more. The school principal is a champion for those sorely in need of one, but she isn't afraid to set boundaries and teach the teens why those boundaries and rules are important.
Violence & Scariness
Tense arguments between parents and children.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Hugging and kissing.
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Occasional swearing, mostly forms of "f--k" and "s--t."
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Products & Purchases
A few well-known brands are seen on screen, including Pepsi and Sony, but they're captured as part of the documentary process, rather than as promotion.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Discussion about a student whose mother takes drugs -- and who later starts using himself.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Bad Kids is a moving documentary about troubled high school students and the special school in California's Mojave Desert region that may be their last chance. The film follows a few of them through the course of a year as they try to overcome the many hurdles in their difficult lives, and some parts can be wrenching to watch, even though ultimately the message centers on compassion and perseverance. Despite a fair bit of profanity (mostly "f--k" and "s--t"), this is a good film for parents to watch with teens and may prompt some discussion about the challenges of growing up. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The area surrounding the Mojave Desert is a starkly beautiful region but also tough and unforgiving; so is this deeply moving documentary. The material is compelling: A principal and her staff attempt to reach -- and teach -- teens whom some have deemed unteachable so they can find their place in the world with confidence and worth. And the way this story is told, with deep compassion, and the kids it follows, will break your heart and stick with you long after the credits roll.
The filmmakers refrain from pushing emotional buttons unnecessarily; they let the sad, brutal stories each student calls his or her daily existence do the work for you. And they back it all with memorable cinematography of a place that's both forlorn and unforgettable. The only thing missing from The Bad Kids, perhaps, is a follow-up right before the ending that closes the loop on each subject's arc. But perhaps that's the way it is in real life: There are very few easy, or happy, endings.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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