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 The Umbrella Academy is a series about a group of adopted siblings with superpowers who team up to try to prevent a fiery future apocalypse. Parents' main concern will likely be the show's violence: It's gory, bloody, and often set to music, so that it reads as more cheerful than it should. Characters, usually depicted as villains, bad guys, or faceless henchpeople, are dispatched bloodily by the so-called heroes. They're shot, stabbed, and torn apart, with spurting blood and gore -- in piles of dead bodies. Sex and romance are downplayed in favor of violence, but one adopted sibling does have romantic feelings for another. One character is a drug addict and an alcoholic, viewers see him gulping down unnamed pills, scoring drugs in an alley, drinking enormous drinks (and more) while he acts sloppy and impaired. Language includes "s--t," "a--hole," and "bastard."
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What's the story?
Decades before THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY opens, 43 infants were inexplicably born to women all over the world who weren't pregnant the day before. Eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Meany) figures these children must have some kind of special powers. And so he sets out to adopt as many of them as he can. His final tally: seven, including Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), who can make things come true merely by saying things out loud, Klaus (Robert Sheehan), who can speak to the dead, Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), who can jump through time, and Vanya (Ellen Page), who is, as Hargreeves says, "nothing special." Years after they were a hot crime-fighting family, the super-siblings are now estranged. But when Hargreeves dies mysteriously -- and when a character missing for over a decade reappears, warning that eight days from now, a fiery apocalypse destroys all of humanity -- the gang teams up again for a major mission.
Is it any good?
Inventive visuals and quirky actors clearly instructed to let their freak flags fly breathe life into the now hackneyed setup of a school for superheroes. Hey, didn't we do that already? X-Men? Sky High? But this show takes it to the limit, which helps the blah setting. The show's hyperkinetic action sequences set to cheerful pop aren't as effective as they could be -- they'll remind you of Kick-Ass, for one thing, and they're over the top logically speaking: Does a bank robber really deserve to be flung out of a third-story window to certain death? Um, maybe the super-sibs could just call the police? But other moments are sheer joy, like a scene in which the siblings dance to "I Think We're Alone Now" in separate rooms of the house before the camera pulls back as if they were dancing in a dollhouse, each in his or her own box.
Two of Umbrella Academy's actors are also reliable fun whenever they show up: Robert Sheehan, all elfin-fey jittery energy as the junkie bad sheep of the family, and Aidan Gallagher, tasked with playing a character with the consciousness of a 58-year-old and the body of a 13-year-old. Grousing his way believably and magnetically through scenes in which he can't believe the stupidity of everyone around him, Gallagher is a kick -- and incidentally has a really cool superpower. Unfortunately, the sublimely gifted Page mopes around for a while, not given as much to do until her "I'm so ordinary!" storyline shifts in exactly the way you think it will. It's always great to see an underdog get hers, but frustrating to watch Page's sparkly light dimmed while we wait. Nonetheless, if the mere idea of a superhero squad doesn't make you roll your eyes at this point, this interesting show might keep your hero hunger satiated until the next comic book movie comes out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the level of violence in The Umbrella Academy. 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? Is the violence in this show enjoyable? 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 the 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?
For kids who love superheroes
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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