A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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."
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?
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?
- On DVD or streaming: October 30, 2020
- Cast: Jaeden Martell, Chris Messina, Sophie Giannamore
- Director: Martin Krejci
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Empathy
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic content, drinking, some strong language, sexual references and violence - all involving teens
- Last updated: October 29, 2020
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