Welcome to the Dollhouse Movie Poster Image

Welcome to the Dollhouse



A dark look at adolescence; not for kids.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1996
  • Running Time: 87 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

One of the themes of the movie is the idea that people who are supposed to be role models frequently are not.


Implied and sexual in nature.


References to teen sex, rape, and child abuse.


Both adult and child characters use strong language throughout.


A reference or two, but not overwhelming.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teen drug use is referred to and discussed in terms of consequences.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a dark comedy that deals with a tween's alienation from her classmates and family, and deals explicitly with her resulting feelings of rage. There are many references to sex between teens and tweens, a child abduction, and threats of rape. The plot is so off-beat that most younger teens would find it too weird to hold their interest anyway. This is a bleak film about childhood that will be most appreciated by adults.

What's the story?

Written and directed by indie fave Todd Solondz, WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE explores the dark underbelly of adolescence through the eyes of tortured tween Dawn Weiner. Dawn deals with issues common to coming-of-age films: coping with bullies, falling in love with older boys, dealing with siblings who seem smarter and prettier, and handling feelings of malaise and general ennui. But in Solondz's hands, Dawn's adolescence is a veritable horror show, she is viciously harassed at school and unloved at home. But this is by no means a feel-good story. Rather, Dawn harbors fantasies of killing her bratty younger sister and confronts a troubled bully who secretly likes her, yet repeatedly threatens to rape her. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the film is how the adults in her life fail her. Her mother withholds affection and her teachers abandon her to the cruelties of her tormentors.

Is it any good?


Viewers will find themselves rooting for Dawn when she mutilates dolls and destroys family property; this is rendered comically in the film, but it is dark stuff. Adults will be able to appreciate the universality of the film's message: adolescence is a tough time that many experience as being alienating and disconcerting. Dawn's trials and tribulations will likely, ring too true to many kids as well. The film is essentially a commentary on overly rosy portraits of adolescence on film. This fact is likely to escape young viewers. Thus, this is a great film for adults, but it is too sinister and gloomy for kids.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the many issues related to teenaged alienation that are dealt with here. Why is Dawn treated badly by her classmates? How does the film portray her as being different, visually, from the other characters in the film? The film's depiction of teen sex and drug use offers a good opportunity for families to discuss these issues. Why does Dawn assume that Brandon uses drugs? Would you feel the same way? Is Steve Rodgers's treatment of female characters fair or unfair? Finally, the storyline dealing with child abduction might allow families to talk about right vs. wrong behaviors and feelings. Is Missy's abduction Dawn's fault? How should Dawn have handled that situation differently? Why were Dawn's actions dangerous?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 22, 1996
DVD/Streaming release date:August 3, 1999
Cast:Heather Matarazzo, Matthew Faber, Victoria Davis
Director:Todd Solondz
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:87 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 December 10, 2013

This film is way more brutal than a horror movie!

Here's my difficult admission: I wanted to give this film a lower rating because it didn't end like a Disney film; all wrapped up with a pink ribbon. Dawn is not your "oh woe is me" picked on kid; like a person in her position would, she bullies and picks on the people lower than her status or younger than her. While thankfully this was not the case for my middle school/high school experiences, I know of so many who are going through this, and perhaps teachers should be showing kids this extremely cynical, poignantly humorous indie as a way to demonstrate what not to do and how bullying takes its toll on the victims.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Adult Written bywonder dove November 3, 2012

Nice surprise!

I found this movie to be a little strange at first because I was expecting something more tame - targeted towards young teens, but it kept my attention and eventually decided it was pretty good (It is not for kids though!). I like how it's much different than most coming of age movies I've seen, dealing with dysfunctional families. It's definitely quirky which keeps it interesting. It's basically about a girl named Dawn who is disguised as a nerd because of her unique looks. She is bullied through most of the film which I found to be sad because her nature is very simple and caring. She is highly jealous of her little sister because she is beautiful and talented. Dawn has no friends and only wants to be accepted - until she meets an older boy from her brothers' band who draws an interest in Dawn (friend wise), then Dawn thinks she's in love. The only violence I remember is the bullying and verbal abuse (a school boy threatens to rape Dawn and tells her to meet him after school. He also verbally abuses her by calling her crude names.) Dawn and her sister also fight. Some strong language even by tweens. There is a bit of sexual innuendo throughout, some kissing and talking about intercourse. Overall, nice little movie for mature teens 15 and up.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written bylisa.beth.rose June 29, 2011

Darkly amazing.

This movies revolves around Dawn, a not so pretty 12 or 13 year old who gets relentlessly bullied at school and ignored or mocked at home. She has no friends except for one boy who threatens to rape her (Though they make it apparent he doesn't exactly know what it means) It's terrible and darkly hilarious and a very good quirky film and funny look at suburban life. Kind of like American Beauty in a way, but maybe not as good.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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