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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Messages aren't positive (it's all about a boy growing up to choose a life of crime), but what will be clear to parents is that kids see, hear, and pick up the habits of the people who surround them.
Positive Role Models
No positive role models exist here. Characters are in the mafia and force Black-owned businesses to pay protection money. They also steal, gamble, smoke, drink, and rough people up. The children, particularly a young Tony Soprano, emulate their behavior.
Film takes place around the apex of the U.S. Civil Rights movement; Black people are shown finding their voice and their independence, including one of the main characters. Through him, viewers experience the racism perpetrated against Black people in the 1960s and '70s. Black protestors are also shown rioting, looting, and causing chaos. A conventionally attractive female character defies mainstream expectations of the era, marrying a rich older man for love and demonstrating uninhibited sexual agency, as well as intelligence. She works and strives to be a business owner for her own personal fulfillment. Other female characters are portrayed as victims of domestic abuse who stay in their relationships.
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Violence & Scariness
Tons of violence, often with graphic wounds. Graphic depiction of torture, including a power drill being used in someone's mouth. Gun violence, often leading to death. Domestic abuse. Beatings. Police brutality. Body set on fire. An aspirational character throws a Molotov cocktail at a police cruiser. Fistfights. Riots. Women who are treated abusively by husband/boyfriend stay in the relationship.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few sex scenes. Bare breasts. Rampant infidelity.
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Near-constant strong language includes "ass," "c--t," goddammit," "s--t," "tw-t," and constant use of "f--k," including by children. The "N" word is used by Black people to describe other Black people. Racist conversations.
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Products & Purchases
Chanel is featured as a desirable luxury brand. Successful mafiosos carry enormous wads of cash and peel off hundreds to give out like candy.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Nearly all characters smoke throughout, including 12-year-olds, with no consequences. Substantial drinking. Negative references to taking drugs, including doctor prescribed.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that crime drama The Many Saints of Newark is a very mature prequel to the landmark TV series The Sopranos. It tracks the teenage Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) as he makes his way toward adulthood amid the violence and despair of the gang war in which his family is embroiled. While the character of Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) is explained, viewers who aren't well-versed in the backstories of the rest of the characters from the long-running series may be very lost. Expect lots of blood-soaked violence, particularly deadly shootings and beatings, as well as domestic abuse and graphic scenes of torture. Racial tensions between the Italian American and Black communities during the 1960s and '70s in Newark, New Jersey, serve as a backdrop for the movie's events; characters engage in racially motivated conflict and express racist attitudes. Several scenes of lusty sex include extended footage of a topless woman. While one woman character defies mainstream gender expectations of the era, others are treated dismissively and even abusively. Just like the series, expect plenty of strong language ("f--k," "c--t," the "N" word, and much more), as well as drinking and near-constant consequence-free smoking. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Likely to satisfy only diehard Sopranos fans, this prequel requires more than an ability to recognize key characters as their younger selves (although that is admittedly fun). It feels arrogant of creator David Chase to think that most moviegoers will show up with a full memory of what went down in Northern New Jersey more than a decade ago. To really enjoy The Many Saints of Newark, viewers need a solid understanding of key moments in the DiMeo crime family's future lives, and almost no friendly reminders or flash forwards are provided. And the feeling that each line carries a connection to the future is likely to leave passive fans/those less familiar with the HBO series feeling lost and bored.
Just like Tony, the story plods, but that's not unlike the series. The Sopranos is arguably the best crime drama series in history, but not every episode was a sizzler. Episodes built on one another until something earth-shattering happened, and that may be what's going on here. The film seems like it might be the foundation of a potential series reboot, particularly with the introduction of Dickie's Black buddy Harold (Leslie Odom, Jr.), whose cultural awakening provides the film's most intriguing elements. Meanwhile, Tony Soprano ranks among the most complex TV characters of all time, and James Gandolfini left big shoes for his son Michael to fill. Michael's acting skills aren't quite up to his dad's yet, but he demonstrates real promise and embodies Tony so fully that it's uncanny. The Sopranos was groundbreaking because it turned criminals into heroes and, with its success, ushered in a new era of antihero protagonists. In 1999, that was edgy and exciting, but now, even Disney is making empathetic heroes out of their cartoon villains. In 2021, caring about irredeemable mafiosos is tiresome. While adults may get some pleasure out of revisiting a series that was a big part of the landscape in the Aughts, teens coming out of a pandemic deserve better than a celebration of the worst of us.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.