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Parents' Guide to

The Descendants

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Devastating, moving dramedy about death and forgiveness.

Movie R 2011 115 minutes
The Descendants Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 8 parent reviews

age 11+

Amazing, no higher then PG-13!

Wow. I cannot have enough praise for this lovely, beautifully done, overall amazing movie. I love George Clooney, so me and my husband saw this in theaters days after its release. I couldn't believe how well-acted, magically crafted this movie could be. While the main issue is enough to make anyone nervous (man's wife is dying, and then he finds out she's cheating..... I get it, it sound like the absolute R), the jist of it is a remarkable PG-13 movie with a bit added swearing. Sure, sex is mentioned, but not a lot, and it's never done in any way at all. The messages in this movie are also amazing: (where do I start?) Matt, George's character, somehow manages to live through the cheating with his wife's death, and he even tells the guy she was cheating with to come see her because he thinks she would have wanted it. Shailene Woodley's character drinks, but only at the beginning, she soon shapes to be a very mature teenage girl who is an excellent mother-figure to 10-year-old Scottie, her sister. There are just so many great messages about coping through things and living beyond troubles, even when you want to hate someone. Scottie was mostly a comic relief, but she did a great job at that at was a fairly realistic fourth/fifth grade girl. I honestly love this movie so much I showed it my 9-year-old daughter, who mildly enjoyed it. She's allowed to see PG-13 movies, and this was not a step up from those. The swearing's bad, but everything else is fine for any kid over 10 or 11 who's seen a PG-13 movie. If you're not sure about this one, watch it first, as it's one different parents may read different ways. I, however, am in love.
age 15+


It was slow and predictable, but a good watch overall. Clooney is excellent as usual. The story was definitely sad but I kind of found the kids to be unlikable in this. Lots of strong language, including by a teenage girl which was a little disturbing. However, I loved how it was Hawaii themed, such gorgeous scenery. Acting was great and the actors chosen for the film was perfect. I would not watch again but it's definitely worth a look.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (8 ):
Kids say (20 ):

THE DESCENDANTS, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, unspools as if on island time, strolling barefoot on the beach with little regard to the clock. The voiceover is superfluous, and the tragic moments are rescued from the brink by humor that's sometimes too on the nose. It might be annoying, were it not for the fact that the film is also a transcendent, emotional powerhouse.

Lay the plots out on paper, and it's unbelievable how director Alexander Payne manages to cram them all in while ensuring that the movie's important moments remain authentic. Bravo! He doesn't hurry the layers as they pile on; he simply allows them to do as they will until the sum total suddenly, completely stuns. The biggest kudos belongs to the cast, who all seem to have simply decided to give themselves over to the characters. Even Clooney does away with his typical sophisticated swagger, clopping along on too-noisy flip-flops, wearing defiantly hokey Hawaiian shirts, and letting the gray settle in. It may be his most vulnerable role yet.

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