A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Waffle Street, from James Adams' 2010 memoir of the same title, tells the true story of a bright young MBA who participated in some of Wall Street's unsavory practices, took the fall for his company’s wrongdoing, and found redemption as a server at a waffle restaurant. There probably isn't much to appeal to kids here, but aside from rare uses of such words as "s--t," "mofo," hell," and "bastard," there also isn't much that would be inappropriate. There are some mentions of sex and marijuana, and characters smoke and drinks. The fact that Adams learned many lessons about decency, business, economics, people, and life makes him likable and perhaps of interest as a cautionary tale about the allure and pitfalls of seeking wealth above all and the transformative powers of doing good.
What's the story?
Although he was basically a good guy, Jim Adams (James Lafferty) nevertheless succumbed to pressures and engaged in unethical practices common in the financial world of the 2000s, spending six years "talking people out of their money." When the iffy nature of the $200 million investment he put together became public, his company threw him under the bus to save face. Ready to start a family with his wife, he searched for "honest" work and took a job as a server at a waffle restaurant. WAFFLE STREET, adapted from his book about the experience, gives us a good guy armed with an MBA and a knack for numbers cast into the world of blue-collar work. He sets out from his beautiful house each morning in his Audi convertible to serve waffles, clean clogged toilets, and learn to treat all customers, no matter how weird or unpleasant, with courtesy and patience. Driven to purchase the franchise, which requires he put in a thousand hours to qualify, he works double shifts and sells the car and house. When he loses his chance to buy, he realizes that he has already been taught so much by his new friend, the grill cook (Danny Glover), and the many restaurant regulars he's met. This inspires him to use his financial skills to help those who need money rather than who already have lots of it.
Is it any good?
Waffle Street is awash in syrup of folksy amiability. James Lafferty is both serious and whimsical as a well-meaning math nerd who loves finance but is so driven to meet his firm's unreasonable target numbers that he makes unethical moves that embarrass the firm and get him fired. The man who has spent $50,000 pursuing two business degrees finds out that higher education has nothing on the knowledge that an ex-con grill cook has to teach him about business and life. Glover is gleeful as the cook who spent 27 years in prison and is now not wasting a moment with dishonesty or feeling sorry for himself. Julie Gonzalo is also appealing as Jim's supportive wife. The message that there's more meaning in living honestly and giving back than there is in accumulating great wealth at the cost of self-respect will resonate with parents struggling to raise generous and hard-working children.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Jim's actions as an investment person in Waffle Street represent the legal but unethical actions of many in the finance world of the early 2000s. We now know that such legal but unethical actions played a huge role in the 2008 financial collapse of the world economy. How does Jim's guilt about his actions change his life?
Do you believe that money can make people do things they would not otherwise do? Why or why not?
While there are many rags-to-riches tales out there, there aren't as many riches-to-rags stories. Why do you think that is?
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