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Howard the Duck Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 11+

Superhero spoof is awful -- and edgier than you remember.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that though this PG film derives from a Marvel Comics superhero spoof, it's in sort of a no-duck's-land of an audience demographic, with the animal-costumed main character and childish sci-fi (and rock and roll) attitude mixed with satire, violence, and PG-13 raunch better appreciated by grownups. Howard smokes and drinks and reads the duck equivalent of pornography -- we have clues that he's sexually active with a number of lady ducks and nearly has a sex scene with the scantily-dressed human heroine. There is light swearing, and police-as-dumb-goons prevail among the stereotypes. Younger kids might be disturbed by the villain's monster mutations.

  • Families can talk about Howard the Duck as a satire of superhero mythologies, and how "serious" Marvel characters such as Spider-Man even made guest appearances in the printed version. Have kids read the original Howard the Duck comics (now in book form, some compilations more risqué than others) to appreciate the spoofing as it was intended. Ask them if they enjoy their comics characters served as big jokes, like the Adam West TV Batman, or completely straightfaced like the X-Men and Iron Man. Impress kids with your superhero knowledge (or just look pretty geeky) by saying that the character of She-Hulk also became something of running spoof for the Marvel writing staff.

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Howard supposedly earns hero points for sacrificing his route home in order to save humanity. Still, few qualities here worth admiring (unless you count the idea that the "villainous" Dr. Jennings, before getting possessed by evil aliens, is fine with helping beam Howard back to his home planet, rather than dissecting or exploiting him for research like so many scientists in flicks like this). Heavy-handed stereotypes include dumb rednecks, tacky waitresses, sassy black social workers, brutish cops, music-club punks, etc.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: Lots of bloodless fighting -- Howard uses "quack-fu" on enemies and at one point seems almost to stab a punk with an ice pick but hooks his earring instead. Reckless driving/flying and car wrecks galore. Gunfire.

  • sex false3

    Sex: Amorous couples smooch in bathing suits in some kind of a sensuous hot-tub spa complex. Assorted double entrendres include a rather notorious scene in which human heroine Beverly nearly has sex with the animal hero. She strips to skimpy lingerie and finds a condom in his wallet ("Howard!" she exclaims) and refers to Howard afterwards as her "boyfriend," causing reactions of mock-disgust. Street punks sexually harass her. Glimpse of bare breasts on a female duck, and there is a duck counterpart of Playboy Magazine. Characters accused of being perverts.

  • language false1

    Language: "Hell," "damnit," God's name in vain. Otherwise the dialogue is heavy with euphemisms like "bull-pucky."

  • consumerism false3

    Consumerism: Part of a popular comic book franchise. Plus onscreen plugs for Rolling Stone magazine, MasterCard, and movie franchises such as Indiana Jones (or their duck-world equivalents).

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Howard drinks beer and smokes. Raucous saloon scenes. A street-gangish character thinks he's having a drug hallucination and refers to "doing too much toot."