Release Date: 2014
Genre: adventure, sci-fi, family, friendship
My Rating ****
Official Rating: PG for action, peril, and mild language
Age Group: 8+ (my only concern for this age group is the bar scene, mentioned below)
Tuck, Alex, and Munch. They're best friends, and suddenly, per a government ruling that a freeway will be built right through their neighborhood, they're forced to part. The boys are devastated and are pretty sure this is going to be the end of their friendship. But when their phones "barf" the day before they're all scheduled to move, the boys decide to have one last adventure together. They're going to figure out what is going on with the phones, no matter what it takes.
Tuck will, of course, film the whole thing. Always gotta have a good home video!
Word of Warning
- The boys all lie to their parents about where they'll be so they can run off to the desert, alone. Later, they're joined by a girl, who also lies. Another issue with this is how easily the boys get away with this, and for how long. It's clear that while their parents probably do love them, they're not paid nearly enough close attention.
- The group soon learns that in order to complete their mission, they need to break into various places where havoc results--not by their direct doing, but they do enable it.
- One of the places the group ends up at is a bar. People are partying and drinking, and an older woman at the bar buys some of the boys drinks (they bravely resist, and are luckily able to escape before they're forced to drink).
- One character goes on and on about how her father is a drunk (or an addict...it was hard to hear) and how she just wants to get away from him and her poor mother....All as a lie to distract someone whom she doesn't want asking questions. The whole story is completely made up and mumbled through fake tears.
- Someone gets left behind and caught by a security guard. He's rescued, and nothing bad happens aside from a mildly-harsh scolding from the guard, but this experience is traumatizing for the kid who is an orphan and living with foster parents. He has a fear of being left behind, and this experience does NOT help matters.
- The kids are eventually "captured" by government agents. They're questioned and while the most fearful of them breaks down and sobs out every answer asked for, the others don't seem nearly as scared. The agents themselves behave as children would imagine them to, not telling their parents and forcing them to do things against their wills.
- One of the boys tells a story about how he and a girl at school kissed in the bathroom. He rates the kiss as ok, saying that "he's kissed girls in better places" but this comment seems much more related to the bathroom setting than it does to other possibilities.
- One of the boys remarks that he'll be sleeping over, "In your mother's bed. Not playing video games", a comment meant to be inappropriate but honestly just really funny to an older audience because of how innocent and ridiculous it sounds.
- The kids end up at a teen party where there is clearly under-age drinking, passionate kissing, and one guy is passed out in the bathtub (fully clothed, alone, no implications made).
- Under-age driving.
- The boys, having met an alien, decide to do whatever they can to rescue it. Sometimes this means just following a map, but eventually it means breaking into places, trespassing, and breaking various other laws. At the climax, they decide to trust the alien, at the risk of hundreds of human families, and give it what it wants. It's not clear whether they expect the alien to harm the hundreds, but they do know it's a very real possibility. While this might seem honorable in terms of friendship, it's childishly short-sighted.
There are a few texts that I am honestly impressed with their make up or structure. Finding Neverland captures J. M. Barrie so well and has such a beautiful supportive structure that, as a whole, it's a wonderful work of art. Sea of Tranquility uses alternating narration to navigate difficult issues in a way that is very human but also honest and open. Chasing Shadows blends narration with comic strips to give a sense of urgency and intense emotions. Salt to the Sea uses multiple narrators, finally circling each other in a fascinating way, to tell a story so horrible and yet so full of goodness you cry at the end, even if you're not a crier for anything else. And The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society uses letters to tell a great story, adding an edge that the story could never have in classic narration form. While there are others, they are sadly few and far between.
But this movie joins those ranks. Tuck is proposed as the "author" of the story, narrating, filming, and apparently later compiling the videos to create the final product. We're given his camera, the other boys' cameras, and the alien's camera. We're convinced that these are just boys adventuring, and honestly, it's so genuine I don't even know how someone wrote this. It makes me wonder if they handed the boys cameras and said, "You find an alien and it needs help" and let them go from there.
I know that's not what happened, but that's how well-done this movie is. It fits well as a whole. The dialogue, the characters, the structure, the camera, the music, everything--it comes together as an incredible whole that is worth seeing.