By Tara McNamara,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Witty concept falls flat in teen dramedy with crude humor.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Reminds viewers that the push for teens to "knock out" first-time sexual experiences is a social pressure, but there's no need to hurry. Deals with themes of grief and family. Characters make sweeping generalizations about gender, likely with intent to make fun of those same attitudes, but kids may not realize it's a joke.
Positive Role Models
Uncle Chet steps in to help manage the teens after their older brother's death. A couple of supporting female characters act in a forgiving way.
A teen left paralyzed by an accident stays positive and demonstrates different aspects of her ability in a wheelchair. Supporting Latina character is depicted positively, but other characters mostly recognize her for being conventionally attractive. Part of the film's intent is to show that supporting characters have fuller lives than simply existing to support a main character's storyline.
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Violence & Scariness
A teen self-harms to get positive attention. A boy is smacked hard across the face when he attempts an unwanted kiss. Allegations of sexual misconduct. A teen is mourning the loss of his brother.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The film is about teens' social anxiety around having sexual experiences to "keep up" with classmates. Plot hinges on getting a first kiss, and several scenes involve teens kissing. Frequent sexual conversations among young teens about "fingering." Breasts are shown in artwork. References to condoms, French kissing, periods, getting caught looking at cleavage. A character rubs her boyfriend's rear end affectionately. As part of a school program, kids must wear electronic emotional-monitoring collars that automatically detach after they receive their first kiss.
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Strong, crass language throughout, including "a--hole," "bitch," "boner," "d--k," "dildo," "goddammit," "p---y," "s--t," "weiner," and "f--king." Middle-finger gesture.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Wyrm is a coming-of-age comedy that revolves around grief, sibling rivalry, and the pressure teens can feel to have physical romantic relationships. Set in an alternate version of the 1990s, it imagines a mandated school program called "No Child Left Alone," which is based on the idea that teens need to be encouraged into sexuality so that they can find a lifelong mate. Kids must wear electronic emotional-monitoring collars that automatically detach after they receive their first kiss. In addition to (unsurprisingly) several kissing scenes, there's a lot of crude conversation about what's often referred to as "third base." Crass language is used for insults ("dildo," "d--k"), as well as general profanity ("s--t," "f--king"). A couple of illustrations of women's breasts are seen. Sweeping generalizations about gender -- e.g., "girls are attracted to guys with injuries" -- are intended to satirize the fact that teens say things like that, but some young viewers may not pick up on that. And that statement does lead to the main character (who's mourning the loss of his brother) hurting himself with a hammer off camera. A supporting character who has recently become paralyzed offers a positive example of someone in a wheelchair living a full life.
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What's the Story?
In an alternate version of the 1990s, high school freshman WYRM (Theo Taplitz) must experience his first kiss to complete his school district's Level One human sexuality requirement as part of the government's "No Child Left Alone" program. While focused on potential love interests with whom he could lock lips, Wyrm distracts himself by interviewing members of the community about his late brother, Dylan (Lukas Gage), for the memorial ceremony.
Is It Any Good?
Horny and mournful are an ambitious combination for a 97-minute comedy, and Christopher Winterbauer doesn't quite make it work. It's easy to see why his original short film, also titled Wyrm, got attention on the festival circuit. The metaphor of teens wearing a burdensome weight above their shoulders as a visual indicator to society that they haven't yet "popped their collar" is clever, as well as a good reminder of how self-conscious teens can feel when it seems like everyone else in school is exploring their "first time." And both teens and adults are likely to appreciate the movie's alt-'90s setting, in which government intervention on citizens' bodies has swung in a way that could almost be considered too sex-positive. (The most hilarious part of the film is in the background: the "No Child Left Alone" public service announcement signs reflecting the worry that kids might grow up to be lonely.)
But in the full-length Wyrm, writer-director Winterbauer abandons the central concept halfway through. In interviews, he has explained that he wanted to show how high schoolers can feel pressure to advance up the sexual ladder, but that there's much more to enjoying your teen years than putting a notch in your belt. He also aims to show that the kind of side characters who may be thinly drawn in other films actually live rich, complex lives. Both are powerful notions, but here it just makes for a boring film. Wyrm's existence switches from being the last kid in school to get his first kiss to being the kid whose older brother died and is part of a family that's handling their grief poorly. It's terribly sad, not terribly interesting, and it's likely to leave viewers feeing like they've been the victims of a bait and switch. Still, while this effort can feel like falling into a wyrmhole, Winterbauer clearly has talent for creating quirky characters and original concepts, and an unusual sense of humor that could prove to be wonderful, so keep him on your watch list.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how Wyrm's family members each deal with grief. How can we help someone who's suffered the loss of a loved one? Why is communication so important?
Why do you think Wyrm's central conflict is resolved halfway through the film? How does this impact the "happily ever after"-style ending that we're used to seeing in many romantic comedies? Do you prefer a more realistic ending or the "walk into the sunset" type of ending?
What is "retrofuturism," and what other films or shows have you seen that fit into this genre? Why does it tend to be fertile ground for sci-fi?
The film's premise comes from altering a word in the name of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, a congressional act that intervened in the ways schools teach children. Replace a word in a well-known slogan or mantra and make up the fictional story connected to the new phrase.
Does Wyrm glamorize sexual interactions? Why, or why not?
- In theaters: June 10, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: June 10, 2022
- Cast: Theo Taplitz, Azure Brandi, Lulu Wilson
- Director: Christopher Winterbauer
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, High School
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: June 2, 2023
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