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 Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, based on the novel by Reif Larsen, is a sad, sweet tale about a brilliant boy (Kyle Catlett) who runs away to receive an award he won from the Smithsonian shortly after his twin brother is accidently killed in a gun accident. There are many references to guns -- T.S.' dad is a cowboy rancher who tries to live like he's in the Old West and brands a calf, shoots a rattlesnake, and has stuffed game on the wall, along with an arsenal of guns. At one point, T.S. discusses his brother's death in graphic detail, though it's not shown. Scenes of peril include T.S. hanging from a bridge, crawling under a moving train, and hitchhiking with a creepy trucker. There's also some drinking, punching people out, and swearing (including "horses--t" and even "motherf----r"). Ultimately, this is a sometimes incredibly moving and beautiful, sometimes strange (why is the dog talking?), and sometimes funny movie, but it isn't for younger kids.
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What's the story?
T.S. Spivet (Kyle Catlett) is a boy genius living on a beautiful ranch in Montana with his cowboy dad (Callum Keith Rennie), scientist mother (Helena Bonham Carter), teenage sister (Niamh Wilson), and twin brother. A terrible accident leaves T.S. guilt ridden and isolated, so -- after winning a contest from the Smithsonian for making a perpetual motion machine -- he runs away to collect his prize. His plan leads him on an incredible and emotional adventure.
Is it any good?
This offbeat, melancholy film, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie), starts out quirky and then turns tragically sad as more information about what happened to T.S.' twin brother is revealed. The scenery is gorgeous, and the acting is wonderful -- especially on the part of Catlett, who plays T.S. He's compelling and tragic, which makes it easy to feel T.S.' isolation and guilt. His father doesn't appreciate T.S.' brilliance (or his wife's) and ends up being somewhat one-dimensional, though Bonham Carter is sympathetic as T.S.' dotty mother, Dr. Clair, who increasingly turns inward after the accident.
It takes a long time for anyone to take responsibility for allowing T.S. and his brother to play with guns -- or to acknowledge that their living son is in pain, which won't be easy for parents to watch. The story is moving and sometimes magical, but at other times odd (the dog starts talking), which takes you out of the story a bit. Overall, THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T.S. SPIVET is a good, sweet film, but it's not for younger kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role that guns play in The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet. Do you talk about gun safety with your family? What's the impact on kids of seeing violence -- including gun violence -- in the media?
T.S. is upset with his parents and runs away. Kids: Have you ever felt so upset with an adult that you felt like running away? How did you get past that feeling? What are the dangers of doing what T.S. did? What can we learn from his story?
Do you think G.H. Jibsen was exploiting T.S. by making him speak to a crowd and coaching him before he went on a TV show? What do you do when people try to make you do things you don't feel comfortable doing?
- In theaters: July 31, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: November 3, 2015
- Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis, Kyle Katlett
- Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
- Studio: The Weinstein Company
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, language and some reckless behavior
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