Coming of Age in South Side Atlanta
Release Date: March 31, 2006
Starring: Tip Harris, Lauren London,
Antwan Andre Patton, Mykelti
Williamson, and Keith David
Genre: Coming-of-Age Drama
Audience: Teenagers and young adults
Runtime: 105 minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Chris Robinson
Executive Producer: None
Producer: Dallas Austin, Timothy M.
Bourne, Jody Gerson, James
Lassiter, Will Smith, and
Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins
Writer: Tina Gordon Chism
Address Comments To:Barry M. Meyer, Chairman/CEO
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522-0001
Phone: (818) 954-6000
High-school senior Rashad (Tip Watkins) realizes his life hanging out with friends at the Cascade roller rink and the city swimming pool is going to be changing soon, so he wants to make the best of it while it lasts. Unfortunately, his universe already appears to be dissipating. With graduation approaching, his ambitious friend Esquire (Jackie Long) is perhaps too focused on getting accepted into an Ivy League college, and his new girlfriend (Lauren London) seems to be concealing some important dimensions of her identity.
Further complicating matters is the fact that his little brother Ant (Evan Ross) is being recruited by high-rolling drug dealer named Marcus (Antwan Andre Patton), and his insufficient guardian Uncle George (Mykelti Williamson) doesn’t seem to be too worried about it. Rashad understands his decisions and actions will have important consequences on both himself and those he loves the most, and that he ultimately must decide whether he is willing to do what it takes to be the strong man his deceased father had hoped he would one day become.
While ATL approaches intricate issues such as race, class and identity, it fails to scratch too far beyond the surface, and much more closely resembles a long music video than it does a think piece. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, however, considering director Chris Robinson’s MTV-peppered resumé, nor is it necessarily a problem. Despite glancing at social concerns ever-present among teenagers from the urban working class, this movie is more interested in how they escape these worries. From this perspective, ATL is an endearing success.
In its best moments, ATL captures a bubble-world of innocence within a harsh social environment. Most of the dialogue exchanged between Rashad and his friends while hanging out by the pool or at the skating rink is lighthearted and innocent banter disguised as tough-guy street slang. Like many teenagers, they spend their time flirting with the opposite sex, talking about their favorite music (in this case hip-hop) and laughing. This phase in Rashad’s life, however, is in its twilight, and circumstances push this realization to the surface.
Rashad’s relationship with Ant is an engaging one, with Rashad having become a default father figure to his younger brother after they were orphaned at an early age. Rashad affectionately calls him “Jellybean” because he’s “hard-headed on the outside, but soft on the inside,” and Ant’s hard-headedness is evident when he’s lured into the fools-gold world of drug-dealing. Rashad does his best to discourage him from this life, (including the use of big-brotherly physical force), and instead tries to teach him the virtue of hard work.
ATL’s content is certainly head-and-shoulders better than most movies set in the urban environment. It stresses several positive moral messages, such as the importance of family, community, the protection of loved ones, and the need for positive male role models for male children and male teenagers. However, the movie has a number of problems, including pagan worldview elements, suggested promiscuity, and an inexcusable amount of foul language. Because of this, it is not appropriate for children or younger teenagers, and MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.
In its best moments, ATL captures a bubble-world of innocence within a harsh social environment. The movie’s moral content is much better than most movies set in an urban landscape. It stresses several positive moral messages, such as the importance of family, community, and the protection of loved ones. However, the movie has a number of problems, including pagan worldview elements, suggested promiscuity, and an inexcusable amount of foul language. Because of this, ATL is not appropriate for children or younger teenagers, and MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution