Knives Out Parent Guide
A tongue-in-cheek murder mystery with a wry wit, hammy acting, and terrible pacing.
Parent Movie Review
Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a wealthy man. His bestselling murder mysteries have allowed him to buy a mansion stuffed with quirky collectibles, amass $60 million in assets, start his own publishing company, and give his family lots of financial help. Sadly, the day after his 85th birthday party, Harlan Thrombey is dead.
Found with his throat slit, Thrombey’s death is originally viewed as a suicide by the police until famed private detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), shows up, having been hired by an unknown client. As Blanc and the police start interrogating the relatives, the façade of the perfect family crumbles. Despite their best efforts to dissemble, tales of deceit, adultery, embezzlement, and other misdeeds gradually emerge. With such a multitude of motives, it’s going to be a challenge to figure out whodunit.
If you think this plot sounds familiar, you’d be correct. Knives Out emerges straight out of the cozy murder mystery genre, best exemplified in the novels of Agatha Christie. A dead body (without too much gore); a growing mountain of motives, lies, and alibis; and possibly, another corpse or two complete the formula.
Like most stories in this genre, Knives Out provides a mental puzzle without demanding much from the viewer. It has somewhat hammy acting, which enlivens the one note characters, and a dry, wry sense of humor aligned with the tongue-in-cheek storytelling. There are also outright funny moments: a car chase involving a Hyundai (don’t try it) and a suspect who vomits any time she tries to tell a lie. (Credit to the writers: a puking prevaricator is definitely something new in a murder mystery.) Unfortunately, the film has terrible pacing. The first third of the movie sets up the story with interviews and flashbacks and the final third wraps up the mystery. But the middle third is slow, bloated, and angsty and sucks the fun and energy out of the production. Its biggest problem, however, is that it lacks heart. The characters are largely unsympathetic and even the story’s most appealing character frequently behaves so foolishly that it’s hard to stay onside.
Given that it’s based on a murder, it’s not surprising that Knives Out comes with some violent content, but it’s less gory than expected. (Although a scene where a spider walks across a dying woman’s face gave me an unpleasantly creepy shock.) There are a few non-explicit mentions of sex in conversation and many characters are seen smoking cigarettes and cigars, drinking, and smoking marijuana. But the most frequent content issue in the movie is profanity, with close to four dozen swear words, including two sexual expletives.
The PG-13 rating is appropriate here, but it’s likely not a movie that teens are going to love. Adult murder mystery fans who aren’t expecting Oscar bait and have some dead time will probably enjoy the movie. But Knives Out isn’t worth going out to watch on the big screen. Wait a few months, stay in, and watch it at home. You can debate potential suspects with your viewing buddy without annoying everyone sitting around you and save a few bucks. Now that’s a killer deal.Directed by Rian Johnson. Starring Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, and Ana de Armas.. Running time: 130 minutes. Theatrical release November 27, 2019. Updated April 6, 2020
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Rating & Content Info
Why is Knives Out rated PG-13? Knives Out is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material
Violence: A man is seen dead, with blood around his body and a knife on the floor. People shout at one another and make threats. A man stabs a woman in the chest. A character goes into convulsions from a drug overdose. We see a spider crawling on a dying person’s face. A person is blackmailed. Arson burns down a building; flames are seen; no one is hurt. A man is seen with a black eye. A police chase involves reckless driving. A woman vomits frequently: on one occasion she spews vomit all over a man’s face. Two characters have a brief fist fight. People argue about putting children in cages in a political discussion. A man trips a woman and puts his hand over her mouth to silence her. Spoiler notice: We see a character grab a knife and begin to slit their own throat.
Sexual Content: Mention of masturbation. A character asks if a woman “boinked” her employer. We see pictures of a man embracing a woman who is not his wife.
Profanity: There are almost four dozen profanities in this movie, including two sexual expletives, dozens of scatological phrases, terms of deity, anatomical terms, and crude language. An immigrant is referred to as a “dirty anchor baby”.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Main characters smoke cigarettes and cigars. Main characters smoke marijuana. A nurse jokes about giving her patient “the good stuff” – morphine. Main characters drink alcohol.
Page last updated April 6, 2020
Knives Out Parents' Guide
Do you think Harlan did the right thing in helping his kids and grandkids financially? Did he give them a boost towards success or did he stunt their potential by limiting their need to struggle and achieve on their own? How much help do you think parents should give their children?
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