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Real Steel (2011) - Movie Review for Parents

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating
User Rating 4 Star Rating (1 Review)

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Real Steel Blu-ray
Photo © DreamWorks

Bottom line: Real Steel presents a gritty action/adventure movie that also has a lot of heart. The movie contains some thematic elements, language, and robot violence as well as some human violence which could be unsettling for young kids.

MPAA Rating: PG-13, for some violence, intense action and brief language
Guide age recommendation: 12+
Genre: Action/drama
Runtime: Approx. 128 minutes
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
Director: Shawn Levy
Release Date: October 7, 2011 (Conventional theaters/IMAX)

Real Steel - Overview

Charlie (Hugh Jackman), an ex-boxer turned robot fight promoter, has been down on his luck ever since the sport of boxing was taken over by the grittier, fight-to-the-death sport of robot boxing. Along with his life-long friend Bailey (Evangeline Lilly), whose father was his coach, Charlie has been trying to acquire and fight robots, but he has become desperate and is taking too many stupid risks. Just when he is completely out of options and in trouble for owing money to the wrong kinds of people, Charlie gets a break.

The big break comes in the form of his son, Max (Dakota Goyo). Max's mother has passed away, and his aunt wants custody. Charlie works a deal with the aunt's rich husband and he pays Charlie a large sum to sign Max over, but the catch is, he has to take Max for the summer. Neither Charlie nor Max are thrilled at the idea of being together, but when Max finds out his father is into robot boxing, he's hooked, and he goes along with Charlie to fight his newly acquired high-tech bot, Noisy Boy.

Let's just say things with Noisy Boy don't work out, and Charlie finds himself on top of a scrap heap searching parts. Max discovers an old sparring robot named Atom and becomes convinced they can rebuild him and make him a great fighter. At first Charlie has no interest, but when he sees that Atom has some unique abilities and incredible resilience, he takes on the challenge. Max and Charlie form a bond as they build and train Atom, and as Max's passion and optimism begin to rub off on Charlie, they go farther than they ever thought possible.

Hugh Jackman and AmbushPhoto © DreamWorks Pictures

Real Steel - Guide Review for Parents

At it's core, Real Steel tells one of my favorite kinds of stories: that of a child innocently going after a seemingly impossible dream. In life, kids truly believe that anything is possible. It's only after a few times of getting knocked back by reality that kids become a little less confident about achieving their dreams. Real Steel follows Max's dream to turn Atom into a champion within a gritty, retro-future setting that is believable and interestingly plausible. The stellar special effects in the movie make the sport of robot boxing look absolutely real, and superb acting from Dakota Goyo and Hugh Jackman give the same sense of reality to the father-son relationship and the gradual realization of a little boy's dual dream -- that of connecting with his father as well as seeing Atom fight in the World Robot Boxing League.

Real Steel provides an interesting story and lots of action, so the movie has the potential to capture a wider audience than the robot boxing premise may indicate. However, it is likely the boys who will go nuts over the massive fighting machines. While boys of all ages will certainly be interested in the boxing robots, the film is rated PG-13 and contains some material that may be disturbing to young children.

As can be presumed, Real Steel contains a significant amount of violence, most of which is in the ring between robots (or in one case between a robot and a bull). However, one scene that could be particularly unsettling to young kids involves the father getting beat up by some guys for not paying a gambling debt. The fight occurs in front of his son. Some thematic elements surrounding the father-son relationship and the fact that the boy's mother passed away may also be unsettling to young kids.

The movie also contains some profanity, alcohol and imitative examples of undesirable, dangerous or disperespectful behavior. For more details about the possibly offensive content in the movie, please see the overview below.

Real Steel - Content Overview

*May contain spoilers.

  • Violence (High): Most of the violence in Real Steel happens between robots in the boxing ring. In one fight, a robot is pitted against a bull. The robot slams the bull around a little before the bull begins to fight back hard. In one scene, a few thugs surround Charlie and Max, intent on beating up Charlie and stealing both he and Max's money. Charlie is beat up as his son looks on.
  • Scary Scenes (High): Scenes listed under "violence" could be scary to kids, especially the scene where Charlie gets beat up. Kids also may be frightened in one scene where Max falls from a very high place (he is saved at the last minute). Charlie and Max go to some underground fights that are quite rowdy and a little intimidating.
Atom Fights ZeusPhoto © DreamWorks Pictures

  • Sex/Nudity (Low): A couple of semi-passionate kisses occur in the movie. A couple of scenes show women dressed in skimpy attire such as a bikini.
  • Drugs and Alcohol (High): In the beginning of the movie, we see Charlie in his trailer with empty beer bottles all over the floor. A few scenes in the movie depict people drinking. While not alcohol, the movie shows Max drinking can after can of Dr. Pepper in order to stay awake. In the morning, we see him surrounded by loads of empty Dr. Pepper cans.
  • Language (Medium): The "s" word is used a couple of times in the movie (including once by Max), also the words "damn," "ass" and "bitch" are used. The phrase "Oh God" or variations of the phrase are used a few times in the movie.
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (Extreme): The movie depicts several instances of betting/gambling on robot boxing matches, and Charlie clearly has a problem with risking too much. Max makes a statement about Japanese bootlegs being the best way to get games. Charlie takes Max to the metal yard so they can steal scraps to make a robot.
  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (High): Max's mother has died, and in the beginning it is clear that his father doesn't want anything to do with him. Max finds out that his father signed him over to his aunt and uncle and was paid for doing so. Max is devastated when Charlie takes him back to his aunt and uncle.
  • Movie Topics Kids Might Have Questions About: gambling, robots, boxing, death of a parent, a father not wanting his son, child custody issues
Disclosure: The studio provided a free screening of this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 4 out of 5
Great movie, Member ghotter

I originally went to this movie with apprehension and at first wondered if I had come into the wrong show until I saw Hugh Jackman at the wheel of his truck. I was expecting it to be far into the future but soon found it was in a time similar to ours, the not to distant future. It's a relatable world with characters not much different to us. Real Steel was a pleasant surprise and had a Disney flavour, it's really worth seeing. It has a great story line, interesting characters and great robot fighting scenes. I actually felt for the robots? They were well-done and they looked so real and you would hardly tell that it was all done by computers. This movie is a heart felt father son story between and ex boxer Hugh Jackman and his son Dakota Goyo. I wouldn't be surprised is there is a sequel and I'd definetly go alone and see it. I went with 2 young boys 10 and 12 and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

8 out of 9 people found this helpful.

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