Australian Council on Children and the Media

Planet 51

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 due to violence and sexual references

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Planet 51
  • a review of Planet 51 completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 December 2009.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence
Children 8 - 12 Parental guidance due to violence and sexual references
Children 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Planet 51
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild violence and crude humour
Length 90 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Planet 51 is an animated film which opens with some depictions of the idealistic suburban life of the green aliens on Planet 51, a world curiously similar to 1950s America in terms of styles and attitudes.  Clothing, vehicles, household appliances and architecture all reflect the fashions of the mid 20th Century, as does the almost xenophobic fear of outsiders.

One afternoon, Planet 51’s peaceful existence is interrupted by the arrival of human astronaut Captain Charles Baker (voice of Dwayne Johnson), who had believed that the planet was uninhabited.  After their initial shock, the locals react with hostility, calling in military strongman General Grawl (Gary Oldman) and his taskforce to deal with the situation.  Meanwhile, Captain Baker fortuitously meets a conservative teenager, Lem (Justin Long), who eventually vows to help the astronaut return to his spaceship and escape. 

Other characters are Lem’s younger brother, Eckle (Freddie Benedict); Neera (Jessica Biel), whom Lem would like to date if he had the courage; Glar (Alan Marriot), a guitar-playing protester; and mad-scientist Professor Kipple (John Cleese).

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Fear of difference

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is a great deal of physical and verbal violence in this movie including:

  • A teenage alien says that he would like to cause another teen “some pain”
  • An alien teacher orders one of her students to join the other zombies in the corner of the room;
  • An alien postal worker teases a dog, which is infuriated and plots revenge
  • An alien soldier insults a teenager, then pulls his long hair
  • Aliens soldiers are knocked over by flying plates
  • Alien soldiers punch each other in the face
  • An adult alien gets his fingers caught in a car and is dragged down the street
  • The astronaut smashes two aliens’ heads together
  • Several alien soldiers chase and fire weapons at the astronaut and the teen aliens assisting him
  • A room full of alien soldiers begin shooting one-another and are then electrocuted and left, smouldering on the floor
  • An entire army base is destroyed by explosives, apparently killing dozens of alien soldiers
  • A mad scientist seeks to carry out brain operations on the astronaut and any local traitors.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including:

  • A short scene shows a film being played at a cinema. It involves a cartoon sequence depicting 1950s comic-book style alien monsters and zombies attacking Planet 51 inhabitants
  • An alien mother threatens her young son that if he doesn’t take his medicine, a “big, bad monster” will get him.  Immediately following her words, the alien child sees the humanoid astronaut shoot past the window, scaring him so much that he drinks the whole bottle of medicine.
  • The astronaut throws a little alien dog out of the way
  • A small, dog-like robot urinates oil in fright after it is interrogated by army personnel.
  • Several teenage aliens are chased at high speed and shot at by the military; and
  • The astronaut is strapped to a hospital gurney and approached by a mad alien scientist wielding a large, spinning circular saw, who says he is going to cut out the astronaut’s brain.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be scared by the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the above scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Product placement

Products are displayed or used in this movie include:

  • Twix bar
  • Spam
  • An ipod look-alike music player.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Two teenage aliens are depicted going “parking”
  • A teen alien talks about “making out”
  • The astronaut coaches a teenage alien about “making your move” with girls and “showing no mercy”
  • A teenage alien says that she is “not that kind of girl”
  • An alien soldier wolf-whistles at a  girlie pinup in a magazine
  • Alien soldiers exchange sexually suggestive expressions when their officer-in-command refers to an invasion of 50-ft women;
  • An entrant in a costume contest includes some suggestive thrusting during their dance routine
  • Two separate scenes make homophobic references to homosexuality
  • There are several references to anal-probes and special butt plugs to prevent humanoid “aliens” performing these exploratory procedures.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some implied nudity or sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • The astronaut is accidentally uncovered and stands nude in front of several aliens, who remark, “that’s a funny place for an antenna”
  • Two teenage aliens share a long kiss.

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

There is some coarse and threatening language in this movie, including:

  • Shut up
  • You moron
  • Ass
  • Friggin’

In a nutshell

Planet 51 is an animated science fiction film which appears to be aimed at children, but has an unusual combination of features.  The film contains a number of clever references to 1950s American pop culture and the dominant political landscape of this era.  In some ways, the plot could be seen as challenging such idealised views about life and the notion of the “Other”, especially in the wake of 9/11.  However, these elements are not linked together in any coherent fashion.  A number of viewers may not even pick up the subtle references which will be entirely lost on the targeted pre-teen audiences.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include the acceptance of people who are different.

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