The True Adventures of Wolfboy

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The True Adventures of Wolfboy Movie Poster Image
Inspiring, uplifting coming-of-age story has iffy behavior.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 88 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Elicits strong empathy for an "outsider" character, a boy with a condition that causes hair to grow all over his face and body. Characters who are kind to him are looked on positively, and overall the movie promotes acceptance, loving people for who they are, flaws included.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While Paul is someone whom many people will identify with because he doesn't seem to "fit in," his journey to acceptance is filled with iffy behavior (arson, drinking, armed robbery, stabbing, etc.); very few parents would recommend that their teen take a similar journey. Characters who are kind to him are treated positively.

Violence

Gun used in robberies. Police brandish guns. Carnival set on fire, almost burned down. Upsetting bullying. Boy stabs a man with a pocket knife. Boy bites his father. A villain threatens a teen. Upsetting scenes positioning a boy as a circus freak. Violent talk among 13-year-olds (threatening to kill parents).

Sex

Quick kiss between two teens. Sex-related talk.

Language

Infrequent use of words including "s--t," "goddamn," "damn," "hell," "crap," "d--k," and "stupid."

Consumerism

Hostess "Ho-Ho's" asked for, and then stolen, at a convenience store.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen drinks "blue potion" in a bar and gets drunk. Big party for 13-year-old boy includes lots of drinking. Adult serves alcohol to a boy (he doesn't drink). Adults drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The True Adventures of Wolfboy is a fictional coming-of-age story about a teen boy named Paul (Jaeden Martell) whose face and body are covered in hair. He runs away to find his mother and meets a group of fellow outsiders who accept him for who he is. It's a touching, lovely movie with a message of empathy and acceptance, but there's also lots of iffy behavior on display. Young teens drink and get drunk in a bar and at a birthday party. Guns are shown, and the main character burns down a carnival, robs convenience stores, bites his father, and stabs a villain with a pocket knife. There's bullying, talk about teens killing parents, and upsetting scenes involving a "circus freak." Two teens share a quick kiss, and there's some sex-related talk. Language also includes a few uses of "s--t," plus "goddamn," "damn," "hell," "crap," "d--k," and "stupid."

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What's the story?

In THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF WOLFBOY, shy, self-conscious 13-year-old Paul (Jaeden Martell) has a condition called congenital hypertrichosis that causes hair to grow thickly all over his face and body. His well-meaning father, Denny (Chris Messina), tries to take Paul to a carnival for his birthday, but the day ends up going badly. The boy decides to run away from home to find his mother, using a map that has mysteriously arrived in the mail. His first stop is the carnival, where Mr. Silk (John Turturro) offers him employment -- as a sideshow freak -- but things don't exactly go as planned, and Paul must escape. Next he meets Aristiana (Sophie Giannamore), who's about his age; they hit it off, and she decides to run away, too. They catch a ride with Rose (Eve Hewson), who stops to throw Paul a proper birthday party. But even as they near their destination, a vengeful Mr. Silk is hot on Paul's trail.

Is it any good?

Crafted as a kind of fable or fairy tale, this coming-of-age story inspires empathy for its hero as effortlessly as Mask or Wonder did, but with more gleeful irreverence and irresistible pluck. The True Adventures of Wolfboy may not actually be "true," but it's rooted in all-too recognizable emotions and acts: i.e. Paul's pain and self-consciousness, his father's heartfelt but misplaced attempts to help, and the hateful attacks of bullies. From there, it breaks itself into chapters headed with titles about dragons, devils, mermaids, a pirate queen, and more, accompanied by amazing illustrations. The road trip itself is a wild whirlwind of storytelling.

The True Adventures of Wolfboy has a "tall tale" vibe, not unlike Big Fish or Forrest Gump, but with unwise choices. In his short time on the road, Paul becomes involved in arson, armed robbery, and underage drinking, among other things. But as a moving story about finding your people, it's all forgivable. Director Martin Krejci may not have the visual palette of a filmmaker like Tim Burton, but he makes up for it with his impeccable casting, costumes, and makeup effects. In the lead, rising star Martell -- of Midnight Special, It, and Knives Out -- gives a gloriously vulnerable performance. Paul isn't just withdrawn; sometimes he lashes out to protect himself. His joy at finding friends is like a tonic.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The True Adventures of Wolfboy's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it shocking? Thrilling? Did it seem like too much for the story? Why, or why not?

  • How is the LGBTQ+ character, Aristiana, represented? How does her mother define her? How does she define herself?

  • Is teen drinking glamorized? Are there consequences for characters who drink/drink too much? Why does that matter?

  • Why do many people identify with stories about outsiders, i.e. those who don't "fit in"? What does it mean to fit in? Why does it bother some people to feel like they don't?

  • How are bullies handled in the story? Are there consequences for bullying?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

Character Strengths

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