A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Strong messages about the importance of persistence, hard work, believing in yourself, and being there for each other. The heart of the movie is the strong father-son bond between the two main characters.
Positive Role Models
Noble father dotes on son and is dedicated to taking care of him through thick and thin. He takes his son along on job-related excursions and lies in front of him (the kid looks appropriately skeptical when he hears it). Chris also briefly discourages and yells at his son, after which he is immediately apologetic. Perpetually irritated mom abandons her son early in the movie.
Violence & Scariness
Parents' loud argument worries their son; Chris is hit by a car, leaving his face bruised and clothes bedraggled; father yells at son for crying, frightening him into obedience; Chris starts to fight a man in line at a shelter, frightening his son, who cries.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mother appears briefly in her bra and panties while changing into her work uniform.
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"F--k" written as graffiti on wall, noted and spoken by father and son; several uses of "damn," "hell," "s--t," "ass," and "a--hole." "You suck" written on wall.
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Products & Purchases
Most products are used to mark the year (1981): A Rubik's cube figures prominently in the plot; Members Only jacket; Raging Bull movie poster; Magic Johnson poster, Captain America action figure. Chris goes to work for the Dean Witter brokerage.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Mom smokes cigarettes several times.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Will Smith will draw kids to this movie. But it's not an action flick or slapstick comedy -- it's an inspirational and often emotionally wrenching story. It includes some very sad scenes between family members, as well as a couple of emotionally scary ones. The mother becomes so frustrated with her husband's inability to make a living that she leaves him and their son. Later, the father yells at his son for a trivial reason and gets in a fight, scaring the boy and making him cry. If your child is in a clingy period with you, this might upset him or her. There's a very brief allusion to the mixed effects of classism and racism on the son. The father's frustration sometimes leads to tears and sometimes to angry language (mostly damn and "s--t"). A graffitied "f--k" leads to a brief discussion of the word, and the son says it out loud. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Jaden Smith is adorable; he delivers an endearing performance as Gardner's son, Christopher, in what turns out to be a simple, sentimental, but ultimately inspiring movie. The film deals with the American Dream from a particular perspective, focusing, as the title implies, on the constitutional right to "pursue" happiness, rather than the right to be happy. In this manner, the movie is able to avoid focusing much on institutional racism and how that factors into achieving the Dream. Instead, the relationship between father and son, through all the ups and downs of family strife and economic instability, take center stage, with lovely results.
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.