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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Raising Dion is a series about a second-grader who discovers he has superpowers and his widowed mom who isn't sure how to raise him and keep him safe. Violence is muted compared to many superhero stories, with no gore and almost no blood, though there are CGI battles and scenes with threats like giant monsters and storms. Schoolyard bullies harass a main character, though it's mostly verbal and rarely involves physical violence. A main character is single; expect romantic complications with other characters, though mostly what we see are significant looks and kissing. Language is infrequent and "damn" is about as explicit as it gets, though there is occasional potty humor, like when two characters decide "Fart Boy" is a good superhero name. The cast is diverse, with an African American main cast, including a young African American boy. His best friend at school is a girl who uses a wheelchair and has physical challenges -- though she's frank about the limitations of her body and calls herself "invisible" to the other students, she's also hilarious, smart, confident, and occasionally rude -- an unusual character who's a delight to watch. The realities of being a Black boy in 2019 are addressed by the show in sensitive subplots, and characters show courage, teamwork, and perseverance in challenging a supervillain and others whose villainy is less on a grand scale, but no less worthy of addressing.
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What's the story?
After the unexpected death of her husband, Mark (Michael B. Jordan), Nicole Reeves (Alisha Wainwright) is busy enough just RAISING DION, the couple's 7-year-old son (Ja'Siah Young). Wrung out by grief, left with lots of questions about her husband's demise, Nicole is finding it hard to hold down a job and make financial ends meet. But things really get crazy when she and Dion discover that the second-grader has superpowers, and that these powers are connected somehow with Mark's life -- and death. Now it's up to Nicole and Mark's best friend Pat (Jason Ritter) to make sure that Dion's safe in a world beset by everything from recess yard bullies to supervillains.
Is it any good?
Combining a family redemption drama, coming-of-age tale, and superhero fable gives this delightful series an entirely fresh take on done-to-death comic book adaptations. Superhero tales, including those that zero in on young heroes who haven't yet attained their full talents, generally pick up when their main character is a teen (when romantic subplots start to make sense) or in young adulthood (romance AND death battles!). But a 7-year-old with mysterious powers and a worried mom trying to figure out just what her strange son can do and exactly what danger he's now in? That's far more rare as a setup for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it's hard to find a young kid who can really act. Raising Dion hit the jackpot with Ja'Siah Young, who at 8 is outrageously adorable and suitably sympathetic as a second-grader caught between an otherworldly conflict and everyday kid worries.
As a widow trying her level best to cope with the many obstacles and mysteries life's throwing her way, Alisha Wainwright is great too. Her scenes have an authentic and natural vibe that grounds the family drama in between scenes when lightning forks from the sky or objects float into the air as Dion tries desperately to control them. As she digs deeper into her husband's mysterious death, she's easy to buy as an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary situation, just trying to keep her kid safe. And speaking of that husband ... whose decision was it to cast Black Panther heavyweight Michael B. Jordan in what's essentially a bit part? Good call. With such a powerhouse actor in the role, Mark becomes less of a convenient plot device and more of a real presence, a ghost haunting his family and this series. Nicely done, Raising Dion. Nicely done.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the level of violence in Raising Dion. Is it more or less violent than you expected? More or less violent than other shows or movies about superheroes? How can you tell the difference between a superhero and a supervillain in Raising Dion? Do you think the violent scenes in this movie would scare young viewers, or are they OK to watch? What impact does media violence have on kids?
How well do you think comic books translate to feature films or TV shows? Which comics-based productions have made the best adaptations? Is it important to your enjoyment of a show to have read the comic before watching?
What makes stories about humans with extraordinary powers especially appealing? Why would people want to have superpowers, particularly at this moment in time? If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
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