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REVIEW: Is ‘Fate of the Furious’ OK for kids & teens?

April 14th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: Is ‘Fate of the Furious’ OK for kids & teens?

Dominic Toretto is the type of guy any mom would want her daughter to marry. Well, sort of.

He puts family first. He prays. He even forgives peoples … sometimes.

But in between all of those good deeds, this intimidating-looking man enjoys racing cars on streets and fighting bad guys in alleys. He’s incredibly good at it, too, but his fortune may be running out.

That’s because a mysterious criminal mastermind named Cipher is holding as ransom two people Dominic loves, vowing to let them go only if he helps her obtain weapons—including a nuclear bomb—that would destroy civilization. If he doesn’t follow her orders, she will kill them.

Will Dom allow millions to die in order to save the ones close to him?

It’s all part of The Fate of the Furious (PG-13), which opens this weekend and is the eighth movie in the wildly successful Fast and Furious franchise. It stars a well-known cast, including Vin Diesel as Dom, Michelle Rodriguez as his wife Letty Ortiz, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as his friend Luke Hobbs, Kurt Russell as Frank Petty, and Charlize Theron as Cipher.

Like every previous movie in the series, Fate of the Furious showcases street cars doing the impossible—this time racing through narrow New York City streets, speeding along snow-covered ice, and even winning a race driving backwards (yes, that happens).

For families, the good news is that the movie includes less sexuality than past Fast and Furious films. That’s because our heroes are growing up, maturing and settling down!

The bad news: This one is just as violent and just as littered with coarse language as ever. And even though the sexuality has lessened, it still contains a few (brief) scenes of women in various amounts of immodest attire (details below).

It’s safe to say Fate of the Furious isn’t for small kids, even if Mattel has a partnership and is selling toys. But is the film OK for older children and teens? Let’s examine the details …

Warning: minor spoilers

The Good

For those looking for a central theme, Fate of the Furious may give you whiplash. That’s because its infatuation with fighting and violence is balanced with a strong focus on the traditional family.

“What’s the best thing in your life?” the evil Cipher asks Dom.

“Family,” he quickly responds.

Early in the film, he and his new wife talk briefly about starting a family, and later in the film he tells everyone, “You never turn your back on family.” At one point he even cries when thinking about a newborn son.

Luke Hobbs continues this trend when he tells a government agent, “The only thing I love more than saving lives is my daughter.” He says this while coaching his daughter’s soccer team.

Dom says “grace” before a meal, and we hear him say “thank-you” to God in the prayer a few times before the scene changes.  

The car chase scenes are stellar, even if they (like every other film in the series) require a suspension of belief. On more than one occasion I found myself laughing at the outlandish-nature of it all while asking about the filmmakers, “How’d they do that?”

The Bad

Fate of the Furious is mostly bloodless but also excessively violent, with punches frequently tossed. Hobbs takes part in a jailbreak and battles not only the inmates but also the security guards in a lengthy fight. A fight aboard an airplane is just as brutal. The movie also continues a troubling trend in recent movies: men fighting women. Even if it’s hero vs. villain, it makes me uncomfortable.

We experience two people being shot in the head; one taking place in the street (which we see) and one happening off-screen (which we hear, seconds after the camera turns away). Lastly, there are plenty of guns, semi-auto and automatic rifles fired in the film.     

The language, too, is excessive, with more coarse words than most PG-13 films. I counted at least 70 instances: s--t (19), a-- (14), d--n (10), he--(9), misuse of Jesus Christ (3), misuse of God (2), GD (6), SOB (1), bi--h (4), f-word (1), and ba---rd (1). Johnson’s character is the worst offender.

Early in the film during a street-racing scene, we also see a few women in much-too-revealing swimsuits. Later, we see Dom and Letty in bed on their honeymoon (everything is concealed). After Dom is taken by Cipher, she kisses him.

The plot also is, at times, confusing and goofy. A villain openly steals a country’s nuclear football—the nuclear codes—but then waits a while before trying to use them. Wouldn’t the country have changed the codes by then?

The Worldview

The hit TV show 24 (and its sequel 24: Legacy) was popular for presenting tough ethical dilemmas in the plot. I thought about that as I watched Fate of the Furious. After all, what should Dom do? I think I would have prayed for a third option.

No doubt, the film contains several Christian elements, but the violence and language overshadow it all. It’s the type of film that should force us to ask: Does the violence and language further the plot? Or is it there just to get a rush and laugh out of 20-year-old (and 12-year-old) males? The answer is obvious.

Lastly, Fate of the Furious sends the audience a mixed message about women. Are they to be objectified or treasured? I know what Scripture says; I’m just not certain how some of the heroes in the film would answer the question.  

The Verdict: Family-Friendly?

Fate of the Furious deserves its PG-13 rating. Leave the kids at home. And consider bringing earplugs.

Discussion Questions

Does Dom really put family first? What would you have done in his situation? What did you think when Cipher said the “idea of family … is a biological lie”? Cipher said she believes in fate; is fate biblical? Did you think the movie had too much violence? Does movie violence desensitize us to real-world violence?

Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2 out of 5 stars.  

The Fate of the Furious is rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language.