A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No clearly positive messages. Reinforces clichéd view of the mafia and mobsters.
Positive Role Models
Stereotypically negative images of Italian Americans as mafiosi. Catholic priest makes effort to be the shepherd for a flock that's lost its way, but he has questionable methods.
Violence & Scariness
Gory, bloody shootings. Dead bodies with bullet wounds. Mass murder. Punches. Bruises. Police brutality.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Scene inside strip club with topless dancers. Married couple discusses infidelity. Vulgar sexual references.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Constant use of "f--k." Other profanity includes "ass," "bitch," "c--ksucking" "d--k," "idiot," "motherf----r," "p---y," "slut," "s--t," and "whores." Crude sexual terminology.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Mentions of Airbnb and Uber.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Character smokes pot. Bag of drugs. Smoking cigarettes. Drinking. Pouring alcohol into a flask.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Birthday Cake is a coming-of-age drama that's an homage to mafia movies. So you can expect everything that often comes with that genre: a strip club scene with topless pole dancers, dirty cops, drinking, drugs, smoking, and extremely strong and crass language ("p---y," "f--k," etc.). And, of course, a whole lot of violence. The movie opens with a downright gleeful police brutality scene. And soon after, guns are introduced to a teen who's pressured to use them as a way to stand up to bullies. Weapon use and savage acts only escalate as the teen becomes a man: Viewers will witness vicious beatings, graphic shootings, threats galore, and an epic massacre. The most appalling assassination, though, is how the filmmakers kill the movie's big reveal by giving it away in the title. The movie is being promoted as an Ewan McGregor movie, but he's barely in it (his daughter, Clara McGregor, is co-producer). Expect cameos from other from familiar faces, including Val Kilmer, Ashley Benson, Aldis Hodge, and Marla Maples). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
While it's a subpar mafia movie, this violent crime drama is a feat in producing. It's brimming with talent, from Ewan McGregor all the way down to an astonishing number of character and name actors who pop in for a scene or two -- several of them from The Sopranos or Goodfellas. Spotting and identifying familiar faces is part of the joy; it's like you're playing a trivia game. But if Fernandez (who also wrote and produced) has a co-star here, it's really New York. The traditional mob story is told against a changing landscape where housewives and hipsters have overtaken Brooklyn, and now it's more about getting a kombucha at the bodega than a lap dance at the Bada Bing (although that's in here too).
Unfortunately, the great idea of old-school mobsters dealing with a new New York is lost in the visuals. The grittiness of New York remains, but the cinematography looks like it was shot through a 1970s filter, and the on-screen title font belies the fact that it's taking place in the modern day (mentions of Airbnb and an Uber driver are the only tip-offs). Even more confusing is a jump back in time to "10 years ago" (so ... that would be around 2010?) that features William Fichtner with a fake mustache surely ripped off Madame Tussaud's wax statue of Burt Reynolds. But The Birthday Cake's biggest problem is that, despite all of the anxiety of Gio going through an intense day full of bloodshed and threats, it's boring. Each scene has great actors chewing the scenery to make their one day of work memorable, but it's more like a stack of performances than characters who keep you invested. And for all the bloodshed and brutal beatings, the story hinges on a twist that real mobsters might actually describe as "cute."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Best Action Movies for Kids
Drama Movies That Tug at the Heartstrings
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate