A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Animal Kingdom is a tense drama about a sprawling family of criminals and miscreants. The show is exceedingly violent, with many gun and fist battles as well as break-ins and terrifying automotive-and-motorcycle hijinks on a highway. Main characters are frequently in danger of death or maiming; and tension is amped up by soaring music and camera angles that make the mayhem look cool and attractive, especially when dastardly deeds are committed by members of the model-attractive main cast. Most members of the cast have a beer in their hands during most scenes; they get drunk on beer and liquor and are sloppy and violent. They also use cocaine and marijuana on-screen; a cast member is seen after dying of a heroin overdose on-screen. Cursing includes "s--t," "goddammit," and "ass"; men call each other "bitch" and "loser" as an insult to masculinity; a mother calls her son a "p---y" for the same reason. A man wakes up in bed with two nude women; we see him nude from the rear as he walks nonchalantly into the kitchen to talk to his family.
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What's the story?
After his mother dies of a heroin overdose while he watches TV on the same couch, disaffected teen Joshua "J" Cody (Finn Cole) calls his grandmother, Smurf (Ellen Barkin), who's been estranged from his family for a decade. Smurf drives over to get him, leading J right into the ANIMAL KINGDOM Smurf has created at her Southern California home where her handsome, shirtless, dangerous sons run wild. The sex, drug use, general frat-boy-ish mayhem, and conspicuous consumption are right on the surface. It's fueled by all the "jobs" that sent disturbed brother Andrew "Pope" Cody (Shawn Hatosy) to jail for three years, taking the fall for his other brothers Craig (Ben Robson) and Deran (Jake Weary), as well as their longtime friend and criminal cohort Baz (Scott Speedman). J is mesmerized by the power his family seems to wield and the drama of their lives. But his mother decided to cut off her family for a reason -- and J is about to find out why.
Is it any good?
Intriguingly paced and stocked with cast members both gorgeous and magnetic, this TV reboot of the 2010 Aussie drama is fun but not for kids. Barkin is a compelling replacement for the movie version's Jacki Weaver -- who nabbed an Oscar nomination for her version of Smurf -- injecting a hot streak of sexuality into her Ma Barker-ish role, which also lends a more troubling whiff of incest to her dealings with her frequently shirtless bronzed Greek god sons. She keeps them in line with steely gazes and maternal doting and humiliation, doled out in turns. She welcomes her jailbird son back with a meatloaf with egg inside just before kicking him out of the nest because they can't have a bunch of parole officers hanging around just when the family's planning another big score.
Cole's J makes a convenient entryway into the scene, a newbie who has to be slowly introduced to the family and their thieving, intimidating ways. They're all so gorgeous and obviously successful at ... whatever it is they do; they all spend so much time together drinking and carousing and smoking joints and throwing pool parties filled with beautiful, laughing people. Naturally J is attracted. But the Cody's family's menace is never far beneath the surface, and he -- as well as we -- suspect all of this isn't going in a shiny, happy direction.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the frequent violence in Animal Kingdom. Is it presented as scary? Thrilling? Cool? Devastating? What's the impact of media violence on kids? What age do you think is the right one, if any, for kids to watch this show?
How is an antihero different from a traditional hero? What about from a flawed hero? Is it possible to care about a character who isn't sympathetic or likable in the traditional sense? What, if anything, makes Animal Kingdom's characters worth your time?
The characters in Animal Kingdom imbibe many types of substances. How do you think this show portrays drinking and drug use? Is that harmful for kids to watch?