Your Guide to Summer Movies
Most of us can recall the first time we saw a movie we knew we shouldn’t be watching. I certainly remember; I was a tween when I was caught watching “Flashdance” on HBO -- still a novelty in 1984. My mother walked into the living room, yelped in horror, turned off the TV, and read me the riot act (in English and Spanish). But it was too late. I had already seen too much, and my mom was too mortified to really discuss anything beyond my punishment.
The secret thrill of watching a movie that featured mature content made it difficult and embarrassing to discuss any “grown-up” scenes with my parent, so now that I’m a parent, I understand why my own teen would be reluctant to admit if he’s seen anything inappropriate or confusing or overwhelming. “Luckily” for my son and his younger siblings, I’m a movie critic and entertainment reporter whose job entails screening two to four movies a week. That means I’m in a unique position to know what questionable content is in a movie and be prepared to do one of two things: tell my teen he’s not ready to see a particular release or say “go ahead” but engage my kid in a conversation about the movie’s iffy elements afterward.
Since summer is traditionally the film industry’s most profitable season, most of us with teens can count on our kids asking to head to the nearest multiplex.
Here are five summer movies that may appeal to teens and offer teachable moments for parents to stress the importance of responsible drinking. For more tips on how to talk to your kids about drinking, check out these resources.
- PITCH PERFECT 2
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Hailee Steinfeld
One Line Synopsis: The Bellas pick themselves up after a public disgrace to compete in an international A cappella competition against the world champions, the German team.
Alcohol Content: Set at a fictional Southern university, Pitch Perfect 2 features several scenes of college drinking and jokes about getting drunk. The Bellas attend a big a cappella party, where everyone is carrying plastic cups presumably full of alcohol. One girl jokes that a first-year (and therefore underage) member’s initiation will not include “sucking vodka from a maxi pad,” and the character Fat Amy makes a point of asking who has keys to the minibar when the girls stay at a hotel.
Bottom Line: Even though the movie takes place at a college and not high school, all but a few of the characters are probably under 21, and parents should make sure to address the dangers of underage drinking and overconsumption at colleges.
Starring: Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, and Kevin Dillon
One Line Synopsis: Based on the HBO comedy that ran for eight seasons, Entourage follows a now divorced Vince who convinces former agent Ari, now a studio head, to not only let him star in a big-budget production but make it his directorial debut.
Alcohol Content: The Entourage crew is known for partying hard, and the movie shows Vince, Eric, Drama, Turtle, and Ari doing just that. They are all adults, but they drink (and do recreational drugs like marijuana) often and usually to excess. In one scene, Drama mixes a party punch that combines liquor and Viagra, and in several scenes, characters are shown drinking at massive parties where everyone seems to be throwing back shot after shot (not to mention looking to score a pill, line or puff).
Bottom Line: Of course none of this behavior is new for the bros of the former HBO series, but the rampant nature of the substance use still merits a conversation if you’re older teen is going to see it. Teens need to know that it’s not just underage drinkers who are in danger, but that adults too need to know their limits or face the consequences of their overdoing it.
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, and Jude Law
One Line Synopsis: A gifted CIA analyst (Melissa McCarthy) takes a dangerous undercover assignment to track and stop an arms dealer’s unstable daughter (Rose Byrne) before she sells a suitcase of nuclear weapons.
Alcohol Content: Adults drink socially and occasionally cause a humorous scene while drinking. One character loves champagne and says as much. There are references to someone as a “drunk-ass,” and to hangovers and to roofies/drinks spiked with drugs. A character drinks something she knows must’ve been tampered with, because her vision blurs and speech slurs.
Bottom Line: Although the context of the drinking is strictly among adults (not to mention intelligence agents and their targets), there is an opportunity to discuss the perils of accepting a drink from someone else, particularly a stranger who may have had a chance to slip something hazardous in their drink.
- ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL
Starring: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, and Olivia Cooke
One Line Synopsis: A misfit high-schooler (Thomas Mann) who enjoys filming movie parodies with his best friend Earl (RJ Cyler) reacquaints himself with a family friend who’s dying of leukemia (Olivia Cooke).
Alcohol Content: Most of the drinking on screen is courtesy of Rachel’s mother Denise, who often has a glass of wine in her hand and occasionally acts a little tipsy. There is one brief moment when it looks like Greg and Earl are having a beer, but it’s really Rachel’s mom who’s the frequent drinker. It’s weed that Greg and Earl partake in, although it’s accidental (they eat a weed-spiked cookie from the school drug dealer).
Bottom Line: This is a film where drugs are more of an issue than alcohol, so it’s wise to tackle substance use/abuse in general instead of limiting the conversation to alcohol consumption. Once again, the consumption of a spiked edible is an issue, and though it’s handled humorously in the movie, eating/drinking something laced with alcohol or drugs is a serious health concern.
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, and Brie Larson
One Line Synopsis: A successful magazine writer (Amy Schumer) brought up to question the importance of monogamy finds herself struggling with her first serious relationship.
Alcohol Content: Although I haven’t seen Judd Apatow’s latest yet, even the poster (not to mention the trailer) makes it clear there is a lot of drunken shenanigans in the storyline. Schumer, who co-wrote the comedy in addition to starring in it, plays a commitment-phobe who loves to drink, have one-night stands, and all of the freedom being a single serial dater. Although the drinking is likely to be confined to grown-ups, expect drunken sex jokes/scenes, which Apatow is fond of incorporating in his comedies.
Bottom Line: Some movies aren’t really meant for teens, and this looks like a film best saved for adults. Given Apatow’s previous movies and Schumer’s popularity, it’s likely teens will want to see it, so consider this movie an ideal conversation starter not only about drinking responsibly but also about safe sex – particularly when one or more parties have had too much to drink.
A senior critic for Common Sense Media, Sandie has written movie and book reviews, celebrity profiles and entertainment features for The Washington Post, Kirkus, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, Moviefone, Next Movie, iVillage, and Film.com.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*