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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 Walk is a fact-based drama based on the story of Philippe Petit, which was also told in the Oscar-winning 2008 documentary Man on Wire. (See also the children's book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.) Expect intense, exhilarating, heart-stopping peril during the movie's second half -- when Petit (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) carries out his dream of walking on a wire stretched between the towers of the World Trade Center -- which may be too much for younger kids. There are also brief references to/jokes about pot-smoking, as well as some social smoking and drinking. Language includes a few uses of "s--t," plus "bastard," "goddamn," etc. The main character briefly appears naked, from far away, with only his bottom clearly shown. There's a bit of flirting and kissing, as well as some arguing and shouting. Petit painfully steps on a nail, which causes a bloody wound. Overall, Petit's dedication to his dream is inspiring, even though the danger (and illegality) of pursuing it doesn't exactly make him a perfect role model.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In the early 1970s, Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a street performer in Paris, juggling things while balancing on tightropes. While at the dentist, he reads a magazine that shows the construction of the World Trade Center in New York City, and he suddenly envisions walking a tightrope between the twin towers, about 1350 feet above the ground. He trains with the master, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), and enlists the help of musician Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) and other friends. Spending many months planning and preparing, the crew runs into dozens of setbacks that threaten to derail the entire walk, but Philippe is determined to see his dream realized, at nearly any cost.
Is it any good?
Director Robert Zemeckis' movie is relatively simple but wonderfully exhilarating; it has the power to make your palms sweat and catch your heart in your throat. (Don't try this at home!) Zemeckis is a whiz at technologically advanced movies that tell ever-so-slightly dark stories, but with a bright style and a warm heart. In re-creating this astounding feat of tightrope walking, his camera follows effortlessly, giving us a smooth, 360-degree view of the abyss around Petit's wire. We are with him on every step of his journey.
Some have complained that the 123-minute movie is a slow starter, but Levitt's feverish, dedicated performance energizes the first half. He narrates from the dizzying top of the Statue of Liberty, showing off a convincing French accent (and snippets of actual French), as well as his own freshly learned tightrope-walking and juggling skills. For those who can appreciate anticipation as well as a payoff, THE WALK is totally satisfying.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Philippe Petit is a role model. He learned his craft and pursued his dream, although it was highly dangerous and illegal. Should people aspire to copy him? What can we learn from his stunt? Does his passion translate into other art forms or disciplines?
Is The Walk scary? If not, how would you describe the feelings you had while watching Philippe perform his stunt? If you already knew how it would turn out, did that impact your experience, or was it still tense to watch?
How do you think the filmmakers made it feel like everything was taking place way up high?
The movie shows some drug use, drinking, and smoking. Are these things glamorized? How do they relate to the time period the story takes place in?
How would you describe Philippe's relationship with his teacher, Papa Rudy? Have you ever had a similar relationship with any of your teachers?
- In theaters: September 30, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: January 5, 2016
- Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon
- Director: Robert Zemeckis
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements involving perilous situations, and for some nudity, language, brief drug references and smoking
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