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"CHANGELING"
(2008) (Angelina Jolie, Jeffrey Donovan) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
*None Moderate Extreme Heavy Heavy
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild Mild Moderate None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Mild Extreme Heavy Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A single mother in 1920s Los Angeles must contend with the police and others questioning her mental status when she claims the boy returned to her is not her missing 9-year-old son.
PLOT:
It's 1928 Los Angeles and Christine Collins (ANGELINA JOLIE) is a single mom and phone operator supervisor who's raising her 9-year-old son, Walter (GATTLIN GRIFFITH), by herself. After filling in for someone at work, she returns home in the evening to discover that her son is missing. Frantic, she calls the police who say they can't do anything until the boy has been missing for 24 hours.

Days and then months later, Walter is still missing, with Christine taking every break she gets from boss Ben Harris (FRANK WOOD) to call authorities around the country asking if they've come across anyone matching Walter's description.

Her plight has also drawn the attention of Rev. Gustav Briegleb (JOHN MALKOVICH) who routinely uses his radio broadcasts to blast the Los Angeles police department -- and specifically Chief James E. Davis (COLM FEORE) -- for its violent tactics, intimidation and general corruption, and sees their failure to find the boy as yet another example of their incompetence. Yet, the LAPD seems to get a positive PR spin on news that Walter has been found in another state and that Capt. J.J. Jones (JEFFREY DONOVAN) will be delivering him to Christine.

The only problem is that she knows deep in her heart that the boy (DEVON CONTI) isn't her son, despite Jones assuring her he is -- stating Walter has simply changed in appearance over the intervening months -- and the boy even knowing his home address. Even so, she's psychologically bullied into taking the boy home where Dr. Earl Tarr (PETER GERETY) -- working for the LAPD -- confirms that the boy is Walter despite having never met him before.

When Christine continues to complain, including publically with the help of Gustav, Jones -- fearing a public backlash -- has her committed to the psychopathic ward under the supervision of Dr. Jonathan Steele (DENIS O'HARE). There, she learns from fellow inmate Carol Dexter (AMY RYAN) that she's not alone in being hidden away by the cops and that no matter what she says, the staff will view her as mentally incompetent.

At the same time, Det. Lester Ybarra (MICHAEL KELLY), working the missing children beat, retrieves young teenager Sanford Clark (EDDIE ALDERSON) from a desert ranch and soon hears horrific tales about his guardian, Gordon Northcott (JASON BUTLER HARNER), a bloodthirsty child abductor. That revelation, coupled with Gustav enlisting the aide of powerful attorney S.S. Hahn (GEOFF PIERSON) to represent her plight, ends up providing Christine with both fear and hope regarding finding what's really happened to her son.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of someone in the cast or director Clint Eastwood's work, it seems highly unlikely.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For some violent and disturbing content, and language.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • ANGELINA JOLIE plays a 1920s era single mom who must not only contend with her son going missing, but various indignities (the police not believing her claim that the boy they returned to her is not her son, and being institutionalized in a mental ward to shut her up) that go along with that. Nevertheless, she doesn't give up hope that he'll be found, even when the news appears rather grim. She briefly uses strong profanity.
  • JEFFREY DONOVAN plays her main nemesis, a police captain in the child services division who not only doesn't believe her claim that the boy he's returned to her isn't her son, but also questions and belittles her in the process.
  • JOHN MALKOVICH plays a local reverend who's made it his cause -- mainly through his radio broadcasts -- to point out the many ills of the LAPD, and thus becomes an ally in Christine's case.
  • MICHAEL KELLY plays a cop who recovers Sanford from Gordon's ranch only to uncover something truly horrific there. He then works to determine whether Walter was one of Gordon's victims. He smokes a few times and uses some profanity.
  • AMY RYAN plays one of Christine's fellow inmates in the mental ward, a prostitute who's been wrongly and illegally incarcerated there, and informs Christine of what's occurring. She uses strong profanity and ends up receiving some harsh punishment for trying to defend her new friend.
  • JASON BUTLER HARNER plays an obviously mentally deranged, blood thirsty psychopath who abducts and kills children.
  • GEOFF PIERSON plays the powerful lawyer who helps Christine and her cause.
  • DEVON CONTI plays the boy who claims to be Walter when he's turned over to her by the police. He continues that ruse for most of the film.
  • GATTLIN GRIFFITH plays the real Walter, briefly seen at the beginning of the story, disappointed that his mom is called into work.
  • EDDIE ALDERSON plays a young teen who's been used by Gordon as his murderous accomplice, behavior that obviously later leaves the boy shaken and feeling quite guilty.
  • FRANK WOOD plays Christine's boss who appreciates her dedication, but thinks she shouldn't be working as hard as she does.
  • COLM FEORE plays the LAPD chief who's corrupt in his own ways and doesn't like the negative PR that's building around Christine's case.
  • PETER GERETY plays a physician employed by the LAPD to go along with their claim that Arthur is Walter.
  • DENIS O'HARE plays the supervisor at the mental hospital who twists her words around to make her look crazy and orders electric shock "therapy" for her and Carol.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity consists of at least 4 "f" words, while other expletives and colorful phrases are present. There are several references to a boy being circumcised, a woman's bare butt is briefly seen while she's hosed down in a mental ward (and is then given a digital vaginal exam - just off camera), and a woman is noted as being a prostitute.

    Violence includes partial views of a child abductor killing boys with an ax and shooting at others, a brief view of police mowing down people with machine guns and handguns, a state execution by hanging, some striking of others, and a woman being given electroshock "treatment" as punishment in a psychiatric ward. Some of that has bloody results, and some skeletal remains of children are unearthed. Those scenes and some moments of potential peril might be unsettling and/or suspenseful to some kids.

    All sorts of bad attitudes are present, which also holds true for tense family material, while there are related thematic elements, and a little bit of smoking.

    If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

    For those prone to visually induced motion sickness, there's some bouncy camerawork from time to time in the film.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • None, but Gustav mentions the police department being involved in various illegal things, including bootlegging.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Lester has a scratch on his cheek after Sanford briefly attacks him.
  • We see a mental ward patient with what looks like a dried cut on her nose.
  • We see a flashback of Gordon being all bloody while using an ax on a boy (we see the motion, but not the impact).
  • Not fully believing Sanford, Lester has him dig for the reported bodies and the boy does, first unearthing a boy's shoe and then various human skeletal pieces.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Walter says he got into a fight with a boy at school who said Walter's father didn't want him and thus left. Christine tells her son that's not true since the father never met him and left due to the specter of parental responsibility.
  • We hear that the LAPD is corrupt and powerful, and then see that in the form of Jones who repeatedly discredits Christine's assertion that the boy returned to her is not her son. That includes challenging her mental condition (including saying the boy has changed and that her emotions are getting in the way of her recognizing that); later saying she enjoyed being a childless, free woman and thus wants the state to care for her son, and that she's a liar; and then illegally committing her to a mental ward to keep her quiet and remove her from public eye.
  • A man says he left his wallet at home and needs to retrieve it to pay his diner bill. The owner doesn't believe him, but the man leaves Arthur behind as "collateral" and then never returns.
  • Arthur lies about being Walter and continues that ruse for most of the film.
  • Gustav mentions the police department being involved in murder, gambling, prostitution and bootlegging.
  • Carol, a prostitute, states that she and others are held against their will in the mental ward for having "pissed off" the LAPD (with her saying a guy who beat her at a club turned out to be a cop, and when she reported that, she was carted off).
  • Gordon obviously has a bad attitude for abducting, imprisoning, and then brutally murdering various boys.
  • Dr. Steele and those at the mental ward have bad attitudes toward Christine and others incarcerated there, with the doctor turning her words on her to make her sound crazy. He also offers her freedom if she signs a waiver clearing him and the LAPD of any wrongdoing.
  • We see a flashback to Gordon driving up to a young boy on the street, lying to him that his parents were in an accident and that he's there to take the boy to the hospital (all to abduct the boy, with Stanford being in his truck as bait to give the boy false belief that the story is true).
  • Jones doesn't believe Lester's report that Stanford has identified Walter in a photograph (asking his subordinate if he's gone soft in the head), and wants the cop to bring the boy to him without telling anyone. Lester initially does that, but thinks better of the situation and takes the boy away.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may also be unsettling and/or suspenseful to younger viewers and/or those with low tolerance levels for such material.
  • We hear various anguished screams coming from the distance in the mental ward.
  • When Lester stops and asks for directions to a ranch (not knowing it's his), Gordon gives him directions, and nearly reaches for a shotgun or rifle in the back of his truck, but thinks better of that.
  • Lester slowly looks around Gordon's ranch (looking for Sanford), and a chicken suddenly flutters by him, while axes and knives are seen outside and he peers into a dark building. He then kicks in a door, slowly goes inside (where more knives are seen), and the boy then jumps out on him, with the cop quickly gaining control, but not before being scratched on the cheek.
  • We see a flashback to Gordon driving up to a young boy on the street, lying to him that his parents were in an accident and that he's there to take the boy to the hospital (all to abduct the boy, with Stanford being in his truck as bait to give the boy false belief that the story is true).
  • We see a flashback to Gordon having the young boys in a chicken coop, grabbing and removing one, and then killing him (we see the shadow of his ax blows, and hear the sound).
  • Christine is forcibly held down and given a sedative, with Carol jumping in to try to save her. Dr. Steele slaps her, she punches him in the face, and staff then grab and take her to another room. There, they strap her down, put a guard in her mouth, apply electrodes to her temples, and give her a continuous and high dose of electricity.
  • Some armed cops with Lester slowly check out Gordon's ranch, but find the place empty. Not fully believing Sanford, they then have him dig for the reported bodies and the boy does, first unearthing a boy's shoe and then various human skeletal pieces.
  • Christine is strapped down just like Carol earlier and is nearly shocked, but the process is called off at the last second.
  • A convicted prisoner is escorted up the steps of the gallows and hooded. The noose is place around his neck, and after a few moments, the lever is pulled, the trapdoor opens, and his body drops toward the floor, snapping to a stop. We then see brief struggling and feet kicking and twitching until he's dead.
  • We see a flashback to some boys trying to escape from Gordon's chicken coop, but one gets stuck in the wire as we see lights coming on in Gordon's house. One boy comes back to help the other, and then they and a third boy flee into the darkness as Gordon races out and fires his rifle repeatedly at them in the distance. One boy falls, but that appears to be a stumble rather than being hit.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • While not a weapon per se, Gordon uses an ax to kill children in several scenes.
  • We briefly see some young boys sparring with fake, wooden swords.
  • We see a flashback to Davis' men mowing down various men with machine guns and handguns (no blood), and then dumping a body onto the street at night from a moving vehicle.
  • When Lester stops and asks for directions to a ranch (not knowing it's his), Gordon gives him directions, and nearly reaches for a shotgun or rifle in the back of his truck, but thinks better of that.
  • Some armed cops with Lester slowly check out Gordon's ranch, but find the place empty.
  • We see a flashback to some boys trying to escape from Gordon's chicken coop, but one gets stuck in the wire as we see lights coming on in Gordon's house. One boy comes back to help the other, and then they and a third boy flee into the darkness as Gordon races out and fires his rifle repeatedly at them in the distance. One boy falls, but appears to be a stumble rather than being hit.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "They just go f*cking nuts," "F*ck them and the horse they rode in on," "F*ck you," "Damn you," "I want my son back!" "Hell yes," "Just plain nuts," "What the hell?" "Pissed off," "It's raining cats and dogs and democrats out there," "Bull," "Cock and bull story," "Have you gone soft in the head?" "Jesus jump down," "Whore," "You'll damn well," "Where the hell is he?" "Broad," "I hope you go to hell," "You bastards" and "Shut up."
  • We see a flashback to Gordon driving up to a young boy on the street, lying to him that his parents were in an accident and that he's there to take the boy to the hospital (all to abduct the boy, with Stanford being in his truck as bait to give the boy false belief that the story is true).
  • JUMP SCENES
  • Lester slowly looks around Gordon's ranch (looking for Sanford), and a chicken suddenly flutters by him. Moments later, and with Lester inside the house cautiously looking around, Sanford suddenly jumps out of hiding and attacks him.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful and ominous music plays in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 4 "f" words, 1 possible "s" word, 11 hells, 7 damns, 2 asses, 2 S.O.B.s, 1 crap, 4 uses of "Oh God," 3 of "Jesus," 2 each of "G-damn" and "Jesus Christ" and 1 use each of "Christ," "For Christ's sakes" and "God."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Although never specified, it's somewhat implied that an unheard caller (we only hear Christine trying to calm that person) is upset with potentially salacious material overhead on a party line.
  • After hearing Arthur slip in the bathtub, Christine rushes in to discover that the boy who claims to be her son is circumcised (we don't see the evidence). She later brings this up to Jones and Tarr who separately say the abductor probably did that to the boy.
  • Gustav mentions the police department being involved in murder, gambling, prostitution and bootlegging.
  • We see Christine being hosed down with the equivalent of a fire hose in the mental ward. We see her bare back, her arms covering her chest, and a brief view of her bare butt during that. A nurse then dons a glove, tells Christine to spread her legs while standing, and apparently does a digital vaginal examination that causes Christine pain (we don't see anything explicit, but do see Christine's pained reaction). Later, Christine acknowledges to Dr. Steele that she was checked for syphilis.
  • Carol refers to herself as being a prostitute without actually saying those words.
  • Dr. Steele refers to Carol as a "whore."
  • Christine shows a little cleavage.
  • SMOKING
  • Lester smokes a few times, and at least 1 miscellaneous character also smokes.
  • Gordon asks Christine in prison, "Don't suppose you have a cigarette?"
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Walter says he got into a fight with a boy at school who said Walter's father didn't want him and thus left. Christine tells her son that's not true since the father never met him and left due to the specter of parental responsibility.
  • Walter is disappointed when his mom is called into work, thus disrupting their planned movie outing.
  • The overall situation -- including Christine first discovering her son missing, the police saying they can't do anything for 24 hours, months passing, the wrong boy being delivered to her as her son and the police and others questioning her sanity for saying he's not her son, the discovery of Northcott and his ranch of horrors, and basically not knowing if Walter is alive or dead, etc. -- puts a great deal of emotional strain on Christine throughout the film.
  • Several scenes feature another married couple whose son has also gone missing.
  • When Jones and other cops show up at work to see her months after Walter has been missing, Christine thinks the worst, but is relieved when he states they found her boy.
  • We see a flashback to Gordon driving up to a young boy on the street, lying to him that his parents were in an accident and that he's there to take the boy to the hospital (all to abduct the boy, with Stanford being in his truck as bait to give the boy false belief that the story is true).
  • Carol states that she lost two babies to back alley doctors against her will, and thus doesn't want Christine to lose her child.
  • Christine learns of news of her son's reported death via a kid yelling out news stories while peddling newspapers. She nearly faints and Gustav catches her.
  • Hahn states he lost his daughter to polio five years ago.
  • Christine must endure dual trials regarding the corrupt police department's handling of her case, as well as Gordon's murder trial. Another couple whose son is also missing also attends the latter, as well as the later related execution.
  • Christine learns that Gordon requested her presence in prison to admit to killing Walter. She goes there, but he won't do it, causing her additional stress to the point that she grabs him by his clothes and pushes him back against a window where she smacks him.
  • A couple is relieved that their long missing boy has been found.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The film's historical accuracy and/or any artistic license taken with the true story.
  • Children who end up missing and efforts to find them, such as the current use of the Amber alert.
  • The corrupt Los Angeles police department as portrayed in the film.
  • Telephone switchboards of old, and some of the employees being on roller skates to speed up movement from one station to the next.
  • Carol states that she lost two babies to back alley doctors against her will, and thus doesn't want Christine to lose her child.
  • The comment that you never start a fight, but you certainly finish one.
  • Hahn states he lost his daughter to polio five years ago.
  • Capital punishment (in this case, hanging).
  • VIOLENCE
  • Christine throws a plate at a wall in anger/frustration and yells at Arthur for being an imposter, but later apologizes for that outburst at him.
  • We see a flashback to Davis' men mowing down various men with machine guns and handguns (no blood), and then dumping a body onto the street at night from a moving vehicle.
  • We see Christine being hosed down with the equivalent of a fire hose in the mental ward, followed by a digital vaginal exam that causes her pain.
  • Lester slowly looks around Gordon's ranch (looking for Sanford), kicks in a door, slowly goes inside and the boy then jumps out on him, with the cop quickly gaining control, but not before being scratched on the cheek.
  • We see a flashback of Gordon being all bloody while using an ax on a boy (we see the motion, but not the impact).
  • Stanford says that Gordon killed around twenty boys and forced him to finish off some of them.
  • We see a flashback to Gordon having the young boys in a chicken coop, grabbing and removing one, and then killing him (we see the shadow of his ax blows, and hear the sound).
  • Christine is forcibly held down and given a sedative, with Carol jumping in to try to save her. Dr. Steele slaps her, she punches him in the face, and staff then grab and take her to another room. There, they strap her down, put a guard in her mouth, apply electrodes to her temples, and give her a continuous and high dose of electricity.
  • Christine learns that Gordon requested her presence in prison to admit to killing Walter. She goes there, but he won't do it, causing her additional stress to the point that she grabs him by his clothes and pushes him back against a window where she smacks him.
  • A convicted prisoner is escorted up the steps of the gallows and hooded. The noose is place around his neck, and after a few moments, the lever is pulled, the trapdoor opens, and his body drops toward the floor, snapping to a stop. We then see brief struggling and feet kicking and twitching until he's dead.
  • We see a brief flashback to Gordon struggling with some boys.
  • We see a flashback to some boys trying to escape from Gordon's chicken coop, but one gets stuck in the wire as we see lights coming on in Gordon's house. One boy comes back to help the other, and then they and a third boy flee into the darkness as Gordon races out and fires his rifle repeatedly at them in the distance. One boy falls, but that appears to be a stumble rather than being hit.



  • Reviewed October 21, 2008 / Posted October 24, 2008

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