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The Hummingbird Project

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Hummingbird Project Movie Poster Image
Tech-caper story has salty language but no real point.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 111 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

If anyone had learned any lessons in the movie, there might have been some kind of message to take away, but it's really "just a bunch of stuff that happened." No one succeeds, and no one fails. In the final scene, there appears to be some kind of remorse, but it's too little, too late.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters set out to do something quasi-illegal and don't really seem to benefit or learn from their actions. Aside from being smart and perhaps assertive, they aren't particularly admirable.

Violence

Spoken story about being hit in the face with a pipe and knocked unconscious. A character is diagnosed with stomach cancer. Hospital scenes, etc. Urinating blood. Shouting and arguing. Characters are arrested. Chainsaw is wielded in semi-dangerous way.

Sex

Character goes to a massage parlor and asks for a legitimate massage (unspoken reference to an erotic massage).

Language

Frequent, strong language, with many uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "motherf----r," "bulls--t," "pendejo," "hell," and "stupid."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. Social drinking. Beers with lunch, drinks at dinner, etc.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Hummingbird Project is a (fictional) story about an attempt to beat the stock market by installing a faster, more than 1000-mile-long fiber optic cable. Language is the biggest issue, with fairly frequent use of both "f--k" and "s--t." A character is diagnosed with stomach cancer; some scenes take place in a hospital, and one shows the character urinating blood. There's a spoken description of an injury, several scenes of shouting and arguing, a character getting arrested, and a character wielding a chainsaw. Someone goes to a massage parlor and asks for a "legitimate" massage, as opposed to an "erotic" one. Cigarette smoking is shown, as well as social drinking (beer at lunch, drinks at dinner, etc.). Unfortunately, the film feels like a letdown, but it's appropriate for mature teens and adults.

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What's the story?

In THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT, fast-talking Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) has a million-dollar idea. He convinces his computer genius cousin, Anton (Alexander Skarsgard), that they should both quit their jobs at a powerful high-tech firm run by the formidable Eva Torres (Salma Hayek) to try to make the idea happen. And what is that idea? Nothing short of running a fiber optic cable underground, straight from Kansas to Wall Street, so that they can have stock market information a millisecond early and make a fortune. Obstacles quickly start popping up, including the challenges of drilling through a mountain and buying land from an Amish family. Meanwhile, Anton hasn't quite cracked the problem of subtracting the all-important millisecond from the code. Perhaps worse, Ms. Torres is not about to sit back and watch her former employees eat up her profits.

Is it any good?

Though it certainly looks and sounds like fun, this comedy goes through a great many plot mechanics while hardly scratching the surface of its characters -- and without ever coming to a point. Written and directed by Kim Nguyen (of the Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee War Witch), The Hummingbird Project initially feels like it's going to have the energetic cleverness and complexity of something like The Social Network or The Big Short. It feels like it ought to be "based on a true story," but it's actually not.

Despite Vincent's obvious similarities to Eisenberg's superb portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, The Hummingbird Project fails to discover what makes its main character tick, other than a brief story about his childhood. (A cancer-related subplot feels tacked-on.) Anton, meanwhile, is a broadly characterized "socially awkward genius" type, and Ms. Torres is just an angry, barking villainess. The strangest thing of all is that in the end, the characters neither win nor lose. This is a story with no real ending and no purpose; it doesn't leave viewers with much of an impression. The ending that Nguyen does choose, which involves an Amish farm, might have meant something if the movie had been pared down and zoomed in on that particular episode. But as it stands, it feels like a hollow gesture.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Hummingbird Project's violence. How does the movie build tension mainly through the use of tense words, rather than actual violence? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Are any of these characters role models? What is there to admire about them? Can they be admired for their methods, even if their motives aren't noble?

  • Did the movie seem like a true story? Do you think it could have happened? How?

  • What did you learn about technology from the movie? What are positive uses of technology vs. more questionable ones?

Movie details

For kids who love offbeat characters

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