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The Five Heartbeats
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that vulgar language is pervasive in this film, including multiple forms of "f--k," "s--t," and several instances of the "N" word. Though there are many musical numbers and comic scenes, from time to time the tone changes drastically and becomes intensely dramatic with self-destructive behavior, on-camera substance abuse (cocaine), and sequences depicting murderous rages. A man is severely beaten and held dangling through a window high over a city street. A very sympathetic character is killed when a truck purposefully careens into him. While there are several sequences in which characters kiss, embrace passionately and/or are seen in bed together, there is no actual sexual activity and no nudity. There is some seductive dancing and scantily dressed females engaging in teasing provocative behavior while they are being leered at by eager young men. A promiscuous character talks openly about his sexual addiction, and in one scene an abortion is considered.
What's the story?
Five good friends from an urban neighborhood come together to make music. With Motown at its prime and the country clamoring for more rock, more glitz, and more explosive performances, THE FIVE HEARTBEATS emerge from obscurity to reach the top of the pop charts. On their way, they face corruption in the music industry, racial injustice, and self-destructive behavior in their ranks. Loyal sweethearts urge them on; relationships are broken and mended, and greedy maniacal record producers will stop at nothing to control their destiny.
Is it any good?
Despite the spirited and exuberant direction by an ambitious Robert Townsend, THE FIVE HEARTBEATS suffers from an inconsistent tone. Comedy and romance awkwardly co-exist with tragedy and murder, plus there's the corny script with way too many hackneyed complications, and some hammy, overripe acting from usually solid performers. Though the musical numbers are staged with gusto, great costumes, and terrific moves, the songs themselves are forgettable and derivative. The result is a shallow, one-dimensional look at stock African-American characters involved in a rags-to-riches story we've seen many times before.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Eddie's gradual descent into alcoholism and drug addiction. What early scenes did the filmmakers create that warned of Eddie's susceptibility to that kind of behavior? What messages about substance abuse do you take away from this movie?
The two brothers, J.T. and Duck, had a fiery and changeable relationship. How real did it seem? How do you deal with similar conflicts in your own family?
A character's change from the beginning to the end of a movie is called a "character arc." Talk about the "arc" each of the Heartbeats. What did each one learn? What events changed them?
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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.