A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this often-harrowing drama set primarily in Afghanistan focuses on children's experiences, the themes are mature. Children are repeatedly in peril, and there's a disturbing, though not explicit, scene in which a young boy is raped by older boys (close-ups of faces and a belt being unbuckled indicate what's going on). Several scenes show warfare (explosions, gunfire, bloody bodies) during the Soviet invasion; others depict Taliban oppression (a public stoning, beatings, taunting of civilians). One hanged body is visible on the street. A brief tirade features several uses of "f--k" in a row; other language includes "hell" and "damn."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Based on Khaled Hosseini's bestseller, THE KITE RUNNER opens in 2000 in San Francisco, where an adult Amir (Khalid Abdalla) has lived for years. Having left Afghanistan as a boy, Amir is still haunted by memories of Kabul. His distress is only enhanced when his father's friend calls to say that Amir should come home, since "there's a way to be good again." Amir goes, seeking redemption for a past the film illustrates in flashbacks to 1978, when he was a champion kite flyer. In these scenes, Amir lives a life of privilege but also some confusion, never quite pleasing his father and resenting his own best friend, Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada), a superb kite runner from a lower social class. When Hassan is raped by a trio of local bullies who deride his ethnicity and underclass status, Amir runs away instead of standing up for his friend. When the Soviets invade, Amir and his father escape to America. But Hassan remains behind, an emblem of Amir's lost innocence, homeland, and capacity to "be good." When Amir returns to Kabul as an adult, he seeks redemption by finding Hassan's son, reportedly captured by the Taliban.
Is it any good?
Like the source novel by Khaled Hosseini, Marc Forster's film is frequently contrived and melodramatic. Yet it also focuses attention on the terrible consequences of war and tyranny. The film's brutal villains -- once someone's children, their "colors" filled in or not -- are stereotypical, at once homophobic and unhesitating to use homosexual rape as a weapon. But they're aided by essentially decent bystanders, who do nothing in the face of even the most personal instances of cruelty and abuse.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why part of the story is told as a flashback, from a child's point of view. How does that change the impact of the story? Also, the young actors had to leave Afghanistan after making this film because of the homosexual rape scene. What do your kids think about what it means to take risks for art?
- In theaters: December 13, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: March 24, 2008
- Cast: Homayoun Ershadi, Khalid Abdalla, Zekeria Ebrahimi
- Director: Marc Forster
- Studio: Paramount Vantage
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: strong thematic material including the rape of a child, violence and brief strong language.