The Bad Kids
Moving doc about troubled teens has powerful themes.
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The Bad Kids
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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What's the Story?
THE BAD KIDS aren't really "bad" at all -- they're just trying to get through school, even though the deck is stacked heavily against them. Abuse survivors, teen parents, kids with drug-addicted parents (or no parents): These are the students at Black Rock High School, situated on the edge of Southern California's Mojave Desert. The documentary focuses on a handful of these teens as they try to graduate, with various degrees of success, while also showing their real-life struggles and very difficult life circumstances.
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.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the teens at the center of The Bad Kids. What do you think about their situation? Are they the result of bad luck, poor choices, or both? What do you think you'd do in their place?
How does the movie promote themes of compassion and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?
What is "tough love"? What are the pros and cons of that type of approach? How does this film illustrate it?
How do the real teens in this documentary compare to troubled teens in fictional movies? Which are more relatable to you? Why do you think that is?
- In theaters: December 16, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: April 3, 2017
- Directors: Keith Fulton, Lou Pepe
- Studio: Low Key Pictures
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: High School
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Perseverance
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: October 13, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
Riveting documentary is bound to get kids talking.
Explicit peer pressure story for older teens.
Powerful docu addresses critically important issue for kids.
For kids who love true stories
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