A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Zapped is the story of a teen whose magically enhanced smart phone gives her the ability to control what boys do and say. Obviously the plot is purely fantasy (in a way that today's device-savvy kids will love, no doubt), but its broader message reminds viewers of the importance of respecting other people rather than judging them. The movie's content is highly sanitized fare, so a few shirtless guys and some body humor (farting plays a prominent role) are as messy as it gets. There's a lot of stereotyping at the expense of the male gender, which is meant to be funny but goes to extremes to do so. A mean girl's scathing disdain for her peers raises issues of bullying, but it also serves as a lesson-in-the-making for the main character, who's then inspired to treat her family and classmates with more kindness as a result.
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What's the story?
Life gets a whole lot messier for Zoey (Zendaya) when her mom remarries, blending their comfortable mother-daughter twosome with the relative chaos of her new stepdad, Ted (Aleks Paunovic), and his three sons -- Adam (Adam DiMarco), Zach (Connor Cowie), and Ben (William Ainscough). Suddenly, soft-spoken Zoey is thrust into the uncharted waters of a male-heavy household, where at every turn there's something loud or messy or gross to contend with. And life isn't any better at her new school, where the guys' bad habits make them seem barely human. So when a mechanical mishap with her smartphone turns a dog-obedience app into a boy controller, it seems like the universe's answer to this age-old problem. But the more she and her friend Rachel (Chanelle Peloso) try to change their ways, the more problems she creates, and, when her vindictive arch-nemesis Taylor discovers the secret to her power, Zoey is desperate to set things straight again.
Is it any good?
Inspired by Leslie Margolis' book Boys Are Dogs, ZAPPED admirably encourages kids to consider the repercussions of making other people comply with your expectations. It also gives new meaning to the "there's an app for that" pitch. For Zoey, the good news is that she won't have to share living space with four guys who have no sense of boundaries or rub shoulders with smelly, disheveled classmates who make a game of farting at people. (Really. It happens more than once.) Sure, this has its perks, but, as Zoey eventually learns, there's a downside to wielding control over those around you.
Zapped is entertaining enough, particularly for the younger crowd who will be drawn to it because of Disney megastar Zendaya's presence, but its messages are somewhat mixed for this age group. Even when it's in jest, there's something worrisome about the kind of large-scale stereotyping the story does on the male species in general (with a notable exception in Zoey's genteel, cultured love interest, played by Spencer Boldman) and on their mindless susceptibility to the kind of control she wields. There's also Zoey's quest to unseat her social and dance team rival, Taylor (Emilia McCarthy), which leads her to make some poor choices that hurt people she cares about. But countering these are feel-good examples of the ties that bind blended families, the importance of respecting individuality, and the dangers of manipulating others to get what you want. Oh, and a requisite Zendaya dance break doesn't disappoint either.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stereotypes. What examples of stereotyping do you see in this movie? Are they limited to the boy characters? Do they teach a lesson of some sort? Could they be offensive to any viewers?
Kids: Is popularity something you're concerned about? Is it something that can be achieved? If so, how? Do you notice that any of your peers are driven by it? How can it influence how we treat other people?
Talk to your kids about coping with disappointment. What can we learn from situations that don't turn out as we intend? In what ways can change be a good thing?
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