What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this hard-R action comedy starring kid favorites Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and (thanks to Iron Man) Robert Downey Jr. is really a satirical send-up of Hollywood culture -- from the stereotypical castes of actors and greedy studio heads to celeb-obsessed TV shows. Much has been made of some of the movie's more controversial sources of humor, including having Downey darken his skin to play an African-American character and a running gag about a mentally challenged man played by Stiller's character. It's all meant to drive home the movie's points about Hollywood, but you may need to explain that to teens. There's also a lot of gory violence (both fake and realistic) -- including a 12-year-old drug lord who's scary and good with weapons -- as well as enough swear words to make Quentin Tarantino blush. Drugs (use and manufacture) are part of a significant subplot, but there are basically no women in the film, so there's only brief mention of sex.
- Families can talk about satire. Do teens get that everything in the movie is satirizing formulaic Hollywood blockbusters, insecure actors, mindless celebrity gossip shows, etc.? What do they think about Downey playing an African American? Funny? Offensive? How is it different than the now-unacceptable practice of white actors performing in blackface for minstrel shows? And what about the "retard" characterizations? Ask your teens whether they thought it was amusing or off-putting, and see if they can explain their point of view. It will help them see the material critically. How does the movie-within-a-movie allow the filmmakers to poke fun at the film industry?