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 is filled with drug humor. Marijuana use, including driving while high, is portrayed as endearing and cute, even empowering. Characters drink and smoke. Characters use strong language and double entendres. There are other sexual references, including a character who has had many children out of wedlock with different fathers and some crude talk about the anatomy of a man's wife. There is also some mild violence, including a gun that's used threateningly but is never fired. Racial prejudice is a theme of the movie. While it deserves credit for raising some issues of prejudice within the African-American community, it unfortunately also exploits and perpetuates the stereotypes it tries to expose, including an over-the-top portrayal of gay characters. A character wears a dress that she plans to return, a form of theft.
What's the story?
THE COOKOUT centers on Todd (Storm P), a good kid from a strong and loving middle class family who becomes the number one draft pick for New Jersey's pro basketball team. Excited about the prospect of a multi-million dollar contract, he buys a huge house in an exclusive gated community and plans a big family cookout to celebrate. Todd's agent (Jonathan Silverman) sets up an important interview for an endorsement deal, which happens to fall on day of the cookout, which results in the white lady in the businesslike suit arriving just before all of the wild and wacky relatives. There's the sassy cousin who's out to snag a basketball player to be daddy to her several out-of-wedlock babies, the hugely overweight twins who are perpetually baked on marijuana, a cousin who's got a conspiracy theory about bigotry, and many others. Todd's new neighbors are so skittish that the adults recoil in horror and the children shriek when they see a black family moving in.
Is it any good?
This movie's own willingness to exploit the most blatantly bigoted stereotypes for the cheapest possible humor is so disappointing. And it's too bad that a fresh, smart, and courageous look at the conflictions African-Americans feel about racist stereotypes, that sometimes feel more real to them than they would like to admit, gets lost in a tired and lazy script littered with jokes about poop, dope, and clueless white folks. The movie's willingness to poke fun at black-on-black bigotry provides its few sharp moments, even more welcome because it is the only humor that is understated, the point powerful enough that it does not have to be amplified.
The African American characters are just as likely to assume the worst stereotypes about each other as the other characters are to feel about them. The security guard (Queen Latifah, who also produced the film) may be African American, but she is just as bigoted as the residents are. When she sees Todd and his agent together, she assumes Todd is mugging him. We even see a glimpse of sheepish embarrassment and confusion from characters who are educated and financially successful about relatives who conform to stereotypes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way that the Andersons supported each other even when they did not always respect each other and even when they were not successful. Why was Em's sister so competitive?
They could also talk about how and why even hoped-for changes like money and success can create problems. If you suddenly got a lot of money, what would you spend it on?
How do the "three F's" play a role in your home?