3,2,1... Frankie Go Boom

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
3,2,1... Frankie Go Boom Movie Poster Image
Toxic brother drives so-so comedy about mortifying video.
  • NR
  • 2012
  • 89 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Frankie is trying very hard to be an emotionally healthy person, mainly by avoiding his toxic family -- including an addict older brother and enabling parents who seem to favor their firstborn, despite Bruce's selfish and loutish behavior. Frankie is drawn into Bruce's circle of craziness, bringing up all sorts of unpleasant family memories.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bruce is a terrible brother who spent his youth terrorizing his younger sibling, Frankie, and capturing the moments on film. Now an adult, he sees nothing wrong with trying to recreate the dynamic and selling the resulting footage and can't understand why Frankie might not be partial to the idea of being humiliated on screen.


Several heated arguments and a few physical altercations, one including a young man who's attacked by an old blind man. One character has a penchant for guns and sometimes shoots them when he's feeling under duress.


There's a particular scene that doesn't actually feature sex -- despite the best efforts of the two people involved (they encounter a minor physical malfunction) -- but is pretty outrageous nonetheless. The incident is captured on film and referenced repeatedly throughout the movie as more and more people see it. An early scene shows a half-nude woman running around in a bathrobe that flaps open to reveal her breasts. Several characters, male and female, are seen in their underwear, and one man is seen jogging wearing nothing but a jockstrap. Lots of graphic discussion.


Lots of swearing, particularly variants of "f--k." Other frequently used words include "d--k," "s--t," "ass," "c--t" and "p---y."


Several people use Apple laptops.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the main characters is fresh out of rehab and working hard to stay sober. Others drink wine at meals. Some people smoke pot in one scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 3,2,1... Frankie Go Boom is a crass, sex-themed comedy about the dysfunctional relationship between a man and his older brother, who enjoys filming his sibling's most humiliating moments and is now trying to make a career out of selling them. The latest "masterpiece" involves a sexual encounter in which the younger brother has trouble performing. There are also plenty of graphic sexual references, a scene that shows a woman's breasts (and other scenes with characters in various stages of undress), and a "sex" scene that doesn't have any actual sex or nudity but is still quasi-graphic. Expect plenty of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and more) and scenes in which characters drink wine with meals and smoke pot.

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What's the story?

"Your family is poison," reads the hand-lettered sign on Frankie's (Charlie Hunnam) desk, a reminder of his childhood, when his older brother, Bruce (Chris O'Dowd), would plot elaborate practical jokes and then capture Frankie's humiliation on film. As an adult, little has changed, except now Bruce is trying to jump-start a career as a movie director by selling new movies starring his unwilling brother. And, wow, does he have a good clip to sell -- a quasi-sex tape with no sex involving a very willing girl (Lizzy Caplan) who becomes increasingly frustrated when Frankie is unable to perform. To Bruce, it's comic genius -- but to his younger brother, it's yet another painful reminder of why he's trying to escape this toxic environment. But now Frankie has to team up with Bruce to retrieve the recording before it gets posted on the Internet, where millions of viewers will see his most embarrassing moments.

Is it any good?

It's doesn't all come together as a coherent film. The dysfunctional relationship between Frankie and Bruce drives the action in 3,2,1... FRANKIE GO BOOM, as one brother seems completely oblivious to the fact that his selfish behavior is completely exploiting a family member he claims to love. O'Dowd is a charming narcissist, but that doesn't make him a good guy. And Hunnam is entertaining as the increasingly put-upon sibling who just wants to regain control of his life and ditch Bruce and his shenanigans.

The ingredients are there, but the dish is, as they say, a bit overcooked, especially Bruce's increasingly zany plans to retrieve the errant non-sex tape. Let's just say that stabbing an old blind man with a kitchen knife isn't even close to his worst suggestion. The cast is game for everything, but the story is just packed with too much wackiness for any single element to stand out. Title notwithstanding, it fizzles.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ethics of today's digital video age. Why isn't it OK to film other people and post the videos -- embarrassing or otherwise -- online? How would you feel if someone did that to you?

  • Do Frankie and Bruce seem like real siblings? How do movies and TV shows tend to portray adult siblings? Why?

  • Who do you think this movie's target audience is? Why do you say that? What do you think the take-away is intended to be?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

Themes & Topics

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