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There’s a reason both Joaquin Phoenix and the late Heath Ledger won Oscars playing this Batman foe (and Jack Nicholson should have): He looks like a cartoon but his psychology is so rich (“I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve”) that he forces his way to the forefront of every story he’s a part of.

Parents need to know that “Joker” is an intense, complex, powerful thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix as the famous Batman villain. It’s far darker and more violent than other takes on the character. Expect extremely graphic killings and blood spatters/sprays, guns/shooting, and stabbing. Several characters bully and beat up the main character, punching and kicking him, and there are scenes of fighting, rioting, rage, and shouting, as well as a scene of smothering with a pillow. There’s brief nudity as the pages of a journal are flipped through, plus images and movie titles on adult theaters. The main character is shown with his hand down the front of his underwear, suggesting masturbation, and there’s kissing. Language isn’t constant but includes uses of “f--k,” “s--t,” “a--hole,” etc. The main character takes prescription pills, and characters smoke frequently. The Joker isn’t presented as a role model, but the movie does condemn those who do nothing to help the downtrodden get on their feet, which positions him as a somewhat sympathetic character. It also suggests that mental illness is one of the contributing factors to his villainous acts/behavior, which is troubling. The story disparages hate, anger, and unkindness, but it doesn’t exactly promote kindness, love, or generosity.

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