A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The King of Staten Island is a dramedy that's loosely based on star Pete Davidson's real life. Like the character he plays, he lost his firefighter father at a young age, a traumatic experience with lasting impact on his mental health. Not surprisingly for a Judd Apatow movie, it's frequently vulgar but also touching, funny, and authentic. Language is extremely strong, with constant use of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," and just about every other word imaginable. Characters smoke lots of pot and drink socially, and there are references to other kinds of drug use, including cocaine and antidepressants. There's one pretty graphic sex scene, with thrusting and groaning. Characters kiss, and there's some salty sex talk and innuendo. The main character narrowly avoids a crash when he closes his eyes while driving in what could be a suicide attempt. A tense robbery scene includes guns and shooting, a blood spurt, and punching. The movie also has comic fight scenes, a young boy yelping in pain from the prick of a tattoo needle, a bloody stomach wound, and a glimpse of a gory movie on TV. Ultimately, the movie offers a positive message of personal growth and the power and appeal of healthy relationships.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND, 24-year-old Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) is on the path to nowhere. Ever since his dad, a firefighter, died in action when Scott was a kid, Scott has lived with his widowed mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei), smoked pot with his friends, practiced his tattoo art, and done little else. After Scott cheerfully agrees to tattoo a 9-year-old boy without getting any kind of permission, the boy's father, Ray (Bill Burr), storms over to Margie's house to complain -- and soon winds up asking Margie out on a date. It turns out Ray is also a firefighter, and, despite his attempts to befriend Scott, they just can't get along. Soon after Scott's friends get into trouble while trying to rob a pharmacy, Scott gets kicked out of the house and winds up staying at Ray's firehouse, where he starts to learn some important lessons about life.
Is it any good?
Tackling some of Davidson's real-life troubles, this touching, hilarious dramedy is long but breezy, weighty but easy, with an excellent lead performance and a great group of characters. The sixth movie by writer-director Judd Apatow, The King of Staten Island ranks among his best. He still hasn't learned brevity or compactness (of his movies, only The 40-Year-Old Virgin runs under two hours, and this one is 136 minutes). But this time, rather than feeling cluttered and/or unevenly paced, all of the subplots and supporting characters come together in a seamless flow. The movie has a strong sense of place, capturing Staten Island's beauty as well as its seediness. There's hardly a wasted moment, and just about everything contributes to Scott's character arc.
Davidson's comedy -- not exactly nice-guy humor -- won't appeal to everyone, but fans will find him not only very funny but also extremely engaging. There's a great early scene in which Scott's father's death is discussed. It's disguised as a joke but is still somehow utterly poignant thanks to Davidson's perfect delivery. He balances pain and humor expertly, creating an organic, honest performance. He and Apatow make a great team, and The King of Staten Island feels as if it's a work of trust and sharing, with no falseness or cynicism. Tomei, Burr, Bel Powley, Steve Buscemi, and many other fine cast members seem to share in the movie's lovable energy.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is sex depicted? What values are imparted? How does Scott's view of sex and relationships change over the course of the movie?
How does the film present Scott's struggles with mental health, especially depression? How does it compare to other ways you've seen mental health issues depicted in the media?
On Saturday Night Live, as well as in the movie, Davidson helps process difficult feelings by talking about them. Have you ever talked with someone about your feelings? Why is it sometimes so hard to do that?
Could the firefighters in the movie be considered role models? Why or why not? What about Scott? His mom?
- On DVD or streaming: August 25, 2020
- Cast: Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr
- Director: Judd Apatow
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 136 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and drug use throughout, sexual content and some violence/bloody images
- Last updated: May 10, 2021
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