Parents' Guide to

The Ultimate Playlist of Noise

By Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Mature themes, drinking, language in teen tearjerker.

Movie NR 2021 99 minutes
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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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This teen tearjerker will certainly appeal to the intended audience. But even these teens might wonder why Marcus's parents don't get a second opinion on his debilitating diagnosis, why a tumor on one side of the brain causes both ears to stop functioning, how Wendy manages to edit a cassette tape, why Marcus's brother was so much older than him, or how the family learns sign language so quickly. These plot points can all, of course, have logical explanations, but The Ultimate Playlist of Noise doesn't offer them, risking skepticism from viewers instead of the required deep emotional investment in Marcus's journey. This film also has a handful of awkward scenes meant to elicit laughs but which evoke more cringes, like Marcus vomiting on himself, nearly running over a man, joking about his low GPA, eating a moldy hot dog (then throwing it up) after losing a bet, or Wendy casually damaging private property for her own enjoyment.

There are moments of true emotion, like the heartbreaking scene where Marcus is wheeled into surgery and breaks down crying. Johnson credibly plays the teen as vulnerable and innocent yet wizened by experience and prematurely angry with the world. There's also a memorable montage when he and Wendy first arrive to New York where Marcus plays Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" (recalling Woody Allen's classic Manhattan opening) and the music harmonizes with the sounds of the city streets -- coins clanging in a jar, taxis honking, people shouting, and metro passes swishing. It's meant to be a poignant reminder of the noise Marcus is going to miss and, unlike some other aspects of the film, it works.

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