You Don't Know Jack

 
(i)

 

Sympathetic Dr. Kevorkian biopic tells controversial story.
  • Review Date: October 25, 2010
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 134 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie is clearly on Dr. Kevorkian's side and advocates the use of doctor-assisted suicide in the case of patients with extreme pain and suffering. The opponents of this concept are not given much of a voice in the film; they come across as ignorant and immoral villains. However, the opponents eventually win and Dr. Kevorkian goes to jail. If you agree with the film's perspective, there's still a long road ahead, but if you disagree, it ends on a small victory.

Positive role models

This movie humanizes Dr. Kevorkian, who was portrayed in the news as a crazy crackpot ("Dr. Death") during the 1990s. As viewed here, he's clearly not a murderer, and he is shown turning down many requests for his services, only helping out in cases of extreme pain and suffering. His patients and their families are grateful for his help, and he is seen as humane and caring. He bravely faces all his opponents and sees his work as necessary and inevitable.

Violence

Characters engage in passionate, heated arguments and shouting matches from time to time. We also see disturbing imagery of suffering people, including a burn victim, in hospitals. There are mentions of suicide, and some of Dr. Kevorkian's assisted suicides are shown. Jack also pricks his finger to get a bit of blood to use for his paintings.

Sex

A secondary character mentions "that time he spent with two nurses."

Language

 Jack does not swear, but Jack's
lawyer frequently does, including more than
one use of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "for Christ's sake," "for God's
sake," "piss," "ass," "hell," and "crap."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that You Don't Know Jack is a biopic about the controversial Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who made headlines in the 1990s for advocating doctor-assisted suicides in the case of extreme pain and suffering. This is strong material, and the movie makes a passionate, logical argument for Kevorkian as a kind of forward-thinking hero, while at the same time not giving much voice to his opponents. Language is strong ("f--k" and "s--t"), and there are some disturbing images of suffering and death. Parents should be prepared to share their views with their teens on this hot-button issue.

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

In the early 1990s, Dr. Jack Kevorkian (Al Pacino) lost his license to practice medicine, so he begins providing doctor-assisted suicide for terminal patients who can no longer stand their intense pain and suffering. (The patients must take the final step to start the process.) Occasionally, he is arrested and tried, but his fast-talking lawyer Geoffrey Fieger (Danny Huston) protects him. Nonetheless, Kevorkian faces opposition no matter where he goes, so he decides to take his case to the Supreme Court by filming himself actually ending a patient's life and airing it on 60 Minutes. This attracts plenty of attention, but perhaps not the kind that Jack intended.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Directed by Barry Levinson, this biopic of Dr. Jack Kevorkian originally aired on HBO received 15 Emmy nominations, including a win for Al Pacino as "Outstanding Lead Actor." Pacino is the real selling point here. He creates a three-dimensional portrait of a stubborn, intelligent, and caring man, and it ranks among his all-time best work. Joining him onscreen, Susan Sarandon, Brenda Vaccaro (as Jack's sister Margo), John Goodman, and Danny Huston are all superb.

Unfortunately, the script fails to give much weight to Kevorkian's opponents, and they come across as simple villains. Director Levinson provides some stylish angles and sequences, but his real achievement is shaping Pacino's performance and keeping the material fresh and passionate. It's a powerful experience.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this movie frames Dr. Kevorkian and his work. Would you consider this a balanced portrayal? How would the movie have been different if the doctor's opponents had more of a voice in the film?

  • Did this movie make you feel angry? If so, how did it provoke those feelings? How did the movie's intense scenes affect you? Would the movie have worked without them?

Movie details

DVD release date:October 26, 2010
Cast:Al Pacino, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon
Director:Barry Levinson
Studio:HBO
Genre:Drama
Run time:134 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of You Don't Know Jack was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 17 year old Written byMr. K November 11, 2010
 
A role that was worthy of Al Pacino's immense talent. You Don't Know Jack was a provocative drama which is even more interesting and inspiring because it is true.

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass