What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this musical adaptation of the Broadway hit will appeal to tweens thanks to stars like Amanda Bynes and High School Musical's Zac Efron. It's a bit tamer than the John Waters original -- there's less cursing and fighting -- but the themes are the same: accepting people's differences, whether because of their looks or their skin color. Kids younger than 11 will miss much of the meaning while still being entertained by the characters and the production. Some of the song lyrics are a tad sexually suggestive: "I won't go all the way/but I'll go pretty far" and "The darker the berry/the sweeter the juice" are just two examples. Since it's set in the early '60s, African Americans are called "Negroes" (and, in one case, "lawn jockeys"). There are a lot of weight-based insults and one case of parental abuse: Mrs. Pingleton literally ties Penny to her bed and calls her a "devil child." In one scene, three "bad girls" are shown smoking in the school bathroom, while adults sit in a smoke-filled teachers' lounge.
- Families can talk about prejudice and racism. Mrs. Von Tussle assumes that Tracy isn't talented because of her size, but Tracy proves her wrong. Tracy's determination and self esteem are strong despite her weight. How are overweight kids discriminated against today? What about minorities? Even though there's no more segregation, do kids of color get picked on for being different? Kids: What does Tracy teach us about judging people (and their abilities) by their looks? Families who've seen the original (or the Broadway show) can also talk about how this movie is similar to -- and different from -- the other incarnations.