Darby and the Dead Parent Guide
Strangely enough, this film's original premise is squandered with a plotline that wanders down a very familiar path.
Parent Movie Review
Darby (Riele Downs) sees dead people. After a rogue wave killed her mother and almost killed her, Darby acquired the ability to communicate with the dead. Now she spends her Friday nights helping those who have passed on complete their unfinished business before moving into the afterlife.
During the day, Darby reluctantly attends high school. Dressing anonymously, she strives for invisibility in the hopes of avoiding her nemesis, ex-friend, head cheerleader, and mean girl, Capri. Then Capri dies in a freak accident and their relationship becomes even more fraught.
Capri has absolutely no desire to move into the afterlife – at least not until after her 17th birthday bash. The party, coming up in a month, has preoccupied her for a year, and she won’t rest in peace until the party takes place. With threats of violent haunting, she forces Darby to become popular enough that Capri’s friends will agree to throw a party for their dead friend. For a girl who has avoided all forms of high school social life, this is going to be way harder than dealing with the dead…
Bonus points to Disney for coming up with an original plot premise. A teenage girl who midwives people’s deaths is a pretty distinctive narrative. Ironically, the rest of the movie treads a familiar path. Instead of leaning into the unusual, it tells the familiar tale of a teenager faking a public persona to become popular and learning all the usual lessons about honesty, authenticity, and self-acceptance. Yada yada yada. Don’t get me wrong – the story is done well. Riel Downs is convincing as the conflicted Darby and Auli’i Cravalho makes a very funny self-absorbed princess. The movie also delivers personal growth for both girls: Darby sees the value of broadening her horizons and Capri recognizes and regrets her shallow, self-absorbed, and transactional relationships. Any teen flick that focuses on personal self-assessment and change is heading in the right direction.
Negative content, however, heads off in the wrong direction. Sexual content is thankfully minimal, but the movie has over three dozen profanities, and a party which involves teenagers consuming alcohol and playing drinking games. As teen movies go, the content tilts towards the mild end, but it’s still unnecessary to the plot.
The story features supernatural elements that will deter some families but for most tweens and teens, Darby and the Dead is a harmless, fluffy piece of entertainment. It’s not exciting enough to raise the dead, but it’s good for a few laughs and maybe a moment of self-recognition and as far as teen flicks go, that’s pretty good.
Directed by Silas Howard. Starring Riele Downs, Auli'i Cravalho, Chosen Jacobs. Running time: 100 minutes. Theatrical release December 2, 2022. Updated December 2, 2022
Watch the trailer for Darby and the Dead
Darby and the Dead
Rating & Content Info
Why is Darby and the Dead rated PG-13? Darby and the Dead is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for strong language, suggestive material and some teen partying.
Violence: There is a scene of a mother and child dying by drowning: it’s repeated in flashbacks. A girl is electrocuted in an accident involving a hair straightener with minimal on screen visuals. A ghost makes a dead frog move. A ghost forces a person’s head into a toilet. A woman threatens someone with drowning. A ghost manipulates people’s bodies. A ghost throws items around. A ghost causes electrical discharges.
Sexual Content: There is passing mention of a lesbian lover. Teenage boys and girls kiss. Emojis are used as a form of sexual innuendo. A father accepts his son’s homosexuality.
Profanity: There are just over three dozen profanities, including 16 terms of deity, 14 scatological curses, six minor profanities, a couple of crude anatomical terms, and an incomplete sexual expletive. A vulgar term for women is used a half dozen times.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Teenagers drink beer and play drinking games at a party. There’s brief mention of MDMA but no one is seen using it.
Page last updated December 2, 2022
Darby and the Dead Parents' Guide
Why did Darby and Capri stop being friends? Have you ever struggled to maintain a relationship in the face of bereavement? What do Darby and Capri learn from each other when Capri’s post-mortem wishes force them to spend time together? How do their experiences affect how they see their past mistakes?
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