A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Total Recall is a remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger's popular 1990 sci-fi movie; both are based on a short story by cult author Philip K. Dick. The original, R-rated movie has gratuitous, shocking violence, which was sometimes played for laughs; this PG-13-rated version features more streamlined, martial arts-style fighting, with less blood -- though weapons are pulled, and characters do die. One sex-related joke from the original is repeated (an alien prostitute flashes her three naked breasts), and a married couple is scantily clad in bed. Language includes one "f--k" and many "s--t"s, plus other words like "a--hole" and "bitch." Characters drink beer in one scene, and a supporting character gets comically drunk. Teen sci-fi fans will be interested, but the movie seems destined for a short shelf life compared to the original.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A century in the future, the world has been rendered mostly uninhabitable. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) works on an assembly line, building police sentry robots for a huge corporation. At home, he has recurring dreams about trying to escape with a mysterious girl (Jessica Biel). He decides to go to "Rekall," a company that specializes in implanting "memories." But as soon as he's hooked up to the machine, sentries attack, and Quaid finds himself fighting them off. He discovers that he's really "Hauser," a talented and deadly secret agent. Before long, he's involved in a life-or-death chase as he tries to figure out which side to fight for: the government or the "terrorists" who threaten to rise up and take over.
Is it any good?
Paul Verhoeven's original 1990 Total Recall was cartoonish, with over-the-top violence; Len Wiseman's remake improves on it in many ways, though in other ways, it's slightly inferior. To start, Farrell is much better suited to convey Quaid/Hauser's intense emotional ordeal than Arnold Schwarzenegger was. And Wiseman creates a great-looking universe that combines previous Philip K. Dick adaptations: the rainy, mash-up feel of Blade Runner and the high-tech computer age of Minority Report. The overall look is smoother.
The martial arts action in this take on TOTAL RECALL is more streamlined and less mean and crude than in the Verhoeven version, but it's arguably less fun as well. And though the newer movie feels current in terms of its themes of corporate greed and the "Occupy" movement, it also irons out any of Dick's original sci-fi ideas, and it doesn't seem to have a particularly good reason to exist. If only we could have combined the best parts of both!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Total Recall's violence. Was it exciting or disturbing? How does it compare to the violence in the original movie?
Is Quaid a good role model? How does he know he's doing the right thing if he doesn't know what's going on? What does he use as his moral guide?
What does Total Recall have to say about our future? Which concepts in it are realistic? Which are fantasy?
Does this remake have any new ideas/messages that weren't conveyed in the original? Why do you think they decided to make a new version?
- In theaters: August 3, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: December 18, 2012
- Cast: Bryan Cranston, Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale
- Director: Len Wiseman
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Book Characters, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love sci-fi
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.