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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Perfect Date is a upbeat, funny teen romcom in a high school setting populated by seniors dealing with the challenges of becoming young adults. It's another in a series of cheerful and/or inspiring teen movies released on Netflix, and features one of the the site's breakout stars, Noah Centineo. Wholesome high school activities, like dances, working in a pizza joint, and falling in love, are front and center. The kids' parents are involved and dependable; teachers care about their students; and the teens themselves are "figuring life out as they go along." Messages about being true to yourself, being honest, and having empathy for others go down easily, if not with any subtlety. Viewers can expect occasional swearing and insults (i.e., "bitch," "s--t," "hell," "pr--k," "douche," "dips--t," and "pimp"), as well as one mention of a bodily function (Number 2) and a jokey reference to someone who "snorted a line of printer toner." There's a gay teen portrayed positively, and the movie is ethnically diverse. Fine for teens, especially those who are romcom fans.
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What's the story?
Smart, ambitious Brooks Rattigan (Noah Centineo) is determined to go to Yale in THE PERFECT DATE. He knows his struggling-writer, single dad (Matt Walsh) can't swing the tuition, but if he gets in, he'll make it happen! Agreeing to fill in for a buddy who's supposed to take his rich cousin to a private-school dance (getting paid, of course), Brooks meets Celia Lieberman (Laura Marano), an unconventional, sassy girl. It's an immediate game of one-upsmanship, and there's a breezy connection between the two. When Celia ironically suggests that Brooks make the most of his "date-for-hire" status and create an app to make the money he needs for Yale, he's goes all in. In the blink of an eye, Brooks is a sought-after date-for-hire on "Stand-In" (an app his friend creates for him). Things get complicated when both Brooks and Celia confide in one another about their secret crushes. Maybe they can help each other out with those crushes -- the dazzling Shelby (Camila Mendes) for Brooks and the mysterious Franklin (Blaine Kern III) for Celia. They come up with a plan, and it works. And at least until Brooks and Celia encounter the usual misunderstandings and hurt feelings that sometimes happen between two people who discover they just may want something more than friendship.
Is it any good?
Teen heartthrob Noah Centineo and the talented Laura Marano charm their way past a contrived story to deliver a witty, good-natured movie that will delight young romcom fans. It appears that Chris Nelson and his team hoped to capitalize on the success of Centineo's earlier Netflix movies (Sierra Burgess Is a Loser and To All the Boys I've Loved Before), and took pains to raise the bar with this new entry. Performances are uniformly first-rate; dialogue is sparkling; great pace, great timing. The messages the movie conveys are familiar -- the value of being true to oneself, integrity is better than faking it, and "we're all just figuring it out as we go along" -- and they're dispensed with both humor and conviction. The plot is The Perfect Date's weakest link. It doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter that half the cast is well beyond high school age. The solid work of everyone involved should be well received by enthusiastic teens. One might even say that this film could be called a "perfect date-movie."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Perfect Date illustrates such character strengths as perseverance, empathy, and integrity. Why and how do Brooks Rattigan's values change during the course of the story?
Movies can be character-driven, plot-driven, and/or action-driven. Which of these most accurately describes The Perfect Date? In this film, how is the plot dependent upon the nature of the characters rather than the reverse?
Romantic comedies often have a common simple plot -- "Boy meets Girl; Boy loses Girl; Boy Gets Girl Back." How does this movie change up that formula?
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