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The Five Heartbeats Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 15+

The rise and fall of a flashy, fictional 1960s rock group.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that vulgar language is pervasive in this film, including multiple forms of  "f--k," "s--t," and several instances of the "N" word. Though there are many musical numbers and comic scenes, from time to time the tone changes drastically  and becomes intensely dramatic with self-destructive behavior, on-camera substance abuse (cocaine), and sequences depicting murderous rages. A man is severely beaten and held dangling through a window high over a city street. A very sympathetic character is killed when a truck purposefully careens into him. While there are several sequences in which characters kiss, embrace passionately and/or are seen in bed together, there is no actual sexual activity and no nudity. There is some seductive dancing and scantily dressed females engaging in teasing provocative behavior while they are being leered at by eager young men. A promiscuous character talks openly about his sexual addiction, and in one scene an abortion is considered.

  • Families can talk about how Eddie's gradual descent into alcoholism and drug addiction. What early scenes did the filmmakers create that warned of Eddie's susceptibility to that kind of behavior? What messages about substance abuse do you take away from this movie?
  • The two brothers, J.T. and Duck, had a fiery and changeable relationship. How real did it seem? How do you deal with similar conflicts in your own family?
  • A character's change from the beginning to the end of  a movie is called a "character arc." Talk about the "arc" each of the Heartbeats. What did each one learn? What events changed them?

The good stuff
  • message true3

    Messages: Loyalty, trust, and friendship enable people to overcome adversity and find redemption. Drug addiction and alcoholism lead to failure and unhappiness.  Substance abusers can benefit from 12-step programs.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: Most of the men in this film are portrayed as being intensely loyal to their friends, having strong family values, and exhibiting strong moral behavior. The few negative stereotypical characters are corrupt, greedy, and murderous, or susceptible to addictions. The women are mostly supportive helpmates to the men and have no other defining identity.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Several victims of a poker scam chase the perpetrators through the streets and gunshots are fired. One man is hit, but not seriously injured. A brutal fight with fists and violent kicking ends with one participant held dangling out of a high window and threatened with death. In retaliation for a leading character's courage in standing up to a villainous record executive, the man is killed by a truck (on camera).

  • sex false2

    Sex: Some seductive dancing, sexually-provocative musical performances and lots of leering glances -- along with female legs and low-cut costumes. One character is a self-proclaimed sex addict and womanizer. Couples are seen in bed together, but other than some kissing and embracing there is no actual sexual activity and no nudity.

  • language false4

    Language: Frequent cursing and vulgar language, including "screw," "whore," "ass," "willy," "bulls--t," "s--t," "asshole," "d--k," as well as multiple instances of  "f--k," and "motherf----r." Characters use the "N" word on numerous occasions.

  • consumerism false1

    Consumerism: Rolling Stone, Ebony, Jet, Esquire magazines; Myers Rum, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false4

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: The lead singer of the group becomes a hardcore alcoholic and cocaine abuser. He snorts cocaine on camera. Nightclub scenes and bars show people drinking. Several characters are cigarette smokers. One man is introduced while drunk, slurring his speech and having difficulty with his balance.