Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Apollo 13

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for language and peril.
Profanity:A couple of mild expletives, strong language for a PG
Nudity/Sex:One or two oblique references, including one to "the clap"
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking at party, smoking
Violence/Scariness:Very tense, characters in extreme protracted peril
Diversity Issues:All of the professionals are white males
Movie Release Date:1995

This movie should be called “Smart and Smarter.” In addition to the thrilling story, masterful performances, and impeccable technical authenticity, it is a heartening story of the triumph of smart guys with slide rules, a relief in this era of movies about characters who triumph by being dumb. Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks plays real-life astronaut- hero Jim Lovell in this true story of the mission to the moon that almost left three astronauts stranded in space, when an oxygen tank exploded. Even though we know it turned out all right, even though the technical material is dense and the action is confined to a space smaller than an elevator, the tension is breathtaking, as the astronauts and the mission control team in Houston try to think their way back home. Everything from duct tape to the cover of the flight manual to one of the astronaut’s socks is used in this pre-McGuyver story, where mission control asks simply, “What’s good on that ship?” and builds from there.

Because of the technical material and intensity of the story, it is a good idea to prepare younger kids beforehand by telling them what the movie is about, and you may want to reassure them, since it is a true story, that the astronauts did come home all right.

Talk to older kids about the way that Mission Control solves the problems happening thousands of miles away, by re-creating the conditions inside the spaceship. Point out how the adults handle the strain, sometimes losing their tempers or blaming one another (or trying to escape blame), but mostly working very well together. Lovell and Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinese) were presented with a very tough problem when exposure to the measles led Mission Control to pull Mattingly from the mission. Lovell tries to insist that Mattingly go along, but ultimately realizes that the good of the mission has to override his feelings of loyalty. Kids may have their own ideas about how this should have been handled.

The legendary “Failure is not an option,” said by Gene Kranz, head of Mission Control, when most people were certain the astronauts would never make it back, is worth discussing. So are the changes since you were your children’s age. Note that everyone in Mission Control is a white male (and they all smoke all the time). They are amazed that a computer is small enough to fit into one room. And you may have to explain why adults who watch the movie laugh when the engineers take out their slide rules — for kids today, they are more exotic than an abacus.



  • Karen

    Why is this only recommended for kindergarten through 3rd grade? It’s wonderful for everyone.

  • Nell Minow

    Karen, that is a fluke of the admin system on Beliefnet at the moment and is scheduled to be corrected. I agree — this is one of my favorite movies.

  • Philip Jones

    While this is also one of my favorite movies, I think it’s a little much for the kindergarten crowd. I’m holding off showing it to my kindergarten-age son because the language can get pretty intense.

  • Nell Minow

    Philip, thanks! There were a number of errors when my 1500 reviews from Yahoo Movies were transferred to Beliefnet and that was one. I recommend this superb film for middle schoolers and up and I have made the correction.

  • Rich

    Nell, I have a 7 & 9 year old. The younger is *way* into the Apollo missions. But I’m hesitating because of the bad language. Any way you could give a little more detail about that? (if you still remember)
    Thanks!
    p.s. Very happy to have found your new home. Lost track of you when you left Yahoo.

  • Nell Minow

    Hi, Rich! Welcome and thanks for tracking me down. Please visit often. The language in “Apollo 13″ is very mild, especially by today’s standards. I’d be much more concerned about the tension and peril, but if your son is well aware of the story, he may be okay with the movie. I hope you have seen “From the Earth to the Moon,” the superb miniseries produced by Tom Hanks, which your son will appreciate when he is older. And there are some great documentaries about the Apollo missions, too.
    Best wishes to you and your family.

  • Rich

    Yes my 7YO is very familiar w/ the fate of Apollo 13 so I hope he won’t be too upset by the peril. I think we should rent/download it ASAP! And we’ll try to dig up those other documentaries too.
    Finally thanks for the prompt reply… what an awesome service you provide!

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Rich! My pleasure.

  • Martin

    Nell, I’m new to your reviews. After reading several and noticing your take on profanity (stating that it is “very mild” in Apollo 13), I have reservations in following your recommendations. This is movie that I have seen a few times in the past, and I was looking to see if it was suitable for my 7th grader. I could not remember how bad the language was (or wasn’t), so your review eased my mind about letting my child watch it. After watching it for a little over an hour, we heard more profanity than I cared for him to hear. The final straw was Ron Howard’s brother saying “Godd***”. As a Christian, this was over the line. I can only assume you know of this in the movie and yet still recommend it (A+, I think you rated it). Please consider the God of the universe and what using His name as a curse word says to Him.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you very much for your comment, Martin, and your reminder that there is a wide range of tolerance for bad language. I am sorry to say that the language you refer to counts as mild as a relative matter compared to other contemporary films and even broadcast television and the daily newspaper. If you consider language like that over the line, I cannot think of a recent PG or PG-13 movie you will find acceptable for your family. Fortunately, I often recommend classic older films which are quite safe on language, though may raise other issues of concern.
    Just to clarify — my rating of A+ is due to the film’s overall quality and not necessarily family-friendliness; I provide information about potential parental concern to allow each family to make the decision that is right for their children and their values. I respect your standards but also respect parents who feel otherwise. You can assume that “mild” language includes the d-word and the g-d word, and I hope that helps. If you want more specific information about the particular bad words used in any movie, I suggest the site of my good friend Jim Judy, screenit.com or my friend Brandon Fibbs’ reviews at Christianity Today. Best wishes to you and your family.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Lavonne

    Hello , If you do not accept foul language in a movie , then DON’T watch Apollo 13 — there are mild curse words and then there are 7 ( seven ) uses of G**dammit . Just because these words are accepted in today’s society , doesn’t mean we ALL accept it . I am Christian ( not mainstream either ) and I don’t ” follow the world ” . It is a true story but , can be told without foul language . When does the cycle end ? Will it end with you standing up against the norm ? God bless all , L.

    • Nell Minow

      Thank you Lavonne. I share your concern about harsh and crude language and how pervasive it has become.

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