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Back to School Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 14+

Classic '80s comedy has lots of profanity, innuendo.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Back to School is a 1986 comedy starring Rodney Dangerfield as a successful businessman who decides to attend the college his son attends in order to finally get his degree. There is brief nudity (bare breasts), frequent profanity (including "f--k" and "p---y"), and plentiful sexual innuendos in Dangerfield's frequent and hilarious quips. In one scene, a history professor refers to Asians as "rice eaters," and in another scene, Dangerfield makes a joke involving homosexual rape. As an '80s college movie, there are the requisite scenes of blowout parties with binge drinking. Still, for teens and older, Back to School is a classic of its genre -- a movie in which Dangerfield's pitch-perfect one-liners shine through in every scene.

  • Families can talk about '80s movies set in colleges. Why do you think this was such a popular genre during that decade?
  • What aspects of the movie seem dated to you? Do the dated aspects make this film more or less enjoyable? If you could remake the movie, who would you cast in the roles?
  • Could the story of the movie alone sustain interest, or is the entertainment value primarily from Rodney Dangerfield's constant quips and one-liners?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: In its own way, this comedy shows the importance of hard work in achieving one's goals, as well as the importance of self-reliance in becoming who you want to be.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: For all his faults, Thornton Melon is a self-made millionaire who must learn to put the same amount of work into his college education as he has done in earning his fortune.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: In one scene, a huge fight breaks out in a bar. Punches are thrown, tables and chairs are broken, and bottles are smashed. There is a joke involving homosexual rape.

  • sex false2

    Sex: Early in the film, the father of a son in college enters a dorm building looking for his son. He inadvertently looks into a shower stall, and sees a woman's exposed breasts. This same man's wife is shown in the kitchen of their mansion engaged in foreplay. When his wife wants a divorce, the man shows her a series of Polaroids in which it's strongly implied that she has committed adultery on numerous occasions. Two male college students watch a college female walk by and make a lewd comment about her rear end. In one scene, the main character is shown shirtless from the waist up, moaning and making requests as if he's having sex; the camera pulls back to reveal he's getting a massage from his chauffeur. Overall, there is frequent sexual innuendo and sexual puns throughout the movie.

  • language false3

    Language: Frequent profanity: "f--k," "p---y," "goddamn," "bastards." In one scene, a history professor refers to Asians as "rice eaters." In another scene, while admiring a painting by Gustav Klimt, Klimt's last name is turned into a pun to sound like the c-word describing female genitalia.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Characters are often seen drinking from cans of Miller Lite Beer.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Binge drinking is shown at a wild party. A college student, while trying to explain the party to the main character, is obviously intoxicated as he slurs his speech and eventually vomits on a tree. Characters drink beer at bars, and champagne at parties. The chauffeur in the film is shown smoking a cigar.

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