Being John Malkovich

  • Review Date: June 4, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 112 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Kids won't get this sex-driven, head-trip comedy.
  • Review Date: June 4, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 112 minutes

Age(i)

2
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5
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7
8
9
10
11
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Most of the characters are selfish and amoral. Maxine and Craig sell trips to John Malkovich's brain. Craig terrorizes his wife.

Violence

A man punches Craig for his sexually explicit puppet show. Lots of falling to the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Craig imprisons Lotte in the chimp cage and holds a gun to her head, forcing her to lie.

Sex

There's lots of sexual discussion, sexual behavior, and sex talk. Craig has his puppets talk about their sexual thoughts and simulate masturbation. Lotte and Craig, who are married to one another, both lust after Maxine, and both have sex with her through John Malkovich. There are scenes of Malkovich and Maxine having sex, though she's never completely naked. John kisses Maxine's naked thighs. Lotte talks about being a man trapped in a woman's body and in the end has a lesbian relationship with Maxine.

Language

Lots of salty language, including "bastard," "motherf--ker," "bulls--t," "spunk," "tits," "f--k," "s--t," "asshole," and "suck my dick." People are also called names like "fag" and "retard."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Craig, Maxine, and John Malkovich all drink alcohol at different points. Maxine smokes cigarettes. Lotte talks about smoking pot and Maxine rolls a joint, though she doesn't light it. John Malkovich talks about being stoned.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that teens may be interested in this comedy because it stars Cameron Diaz, and Catherine Keener from The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but they won't get the offbeat, adult humor and storyline. Also, the film is explicit about sex, sexual behavior, and infidelity. John and Maxine have sex several times and you can hear characters reaching climax, though no one is naked. Maxine calls Craig a "fag," and belittles his sexuality. Craig kidnaps, cages, and terrorizes his wife when she falls in love with Maxine. There's discussion of homosexuality and of transexuality.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a self-centered, struggling puppeteer who prefers his love unrequited and his self-worth to come from public acclaim. When his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) urges him to get a job, Craig becomes a file clerk on the 7 1/2 floor of a building with a special feature: a portal into the brain and life of John Malkovich. See him ordering towels, reading the Wall Street Journal, going to a playhouse, having sex. It's all better, it seems through Malkovich's eyes. When Craig reveals the portal to conniving coworker Maxine (Catherine Keener), she uses his attraction for him to convince him to rent the portal out. When Lotte tries the portal, she realizes that she might be attracted to women, and Maxine in particular. But as Maxine, Craig, and Lotte get sucked further into the rabbit hole of being John Malkovich, their relationships and lives start to unravel.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Dude, here's a head trip for you: Being John Malkovich, like The Big Lebowski, is like taking a wild ride through a surreal world. Unlike Lebowski, Malkovich is expressly not about being yourself and getting your rug back, man. It's about the joy of being someone else -- someone famous and therefore better.

The characters are unabashedly narcissistic and borderline sociopaths. Craig, for instance, creates a puppet of himself and choreographs him having a meltdown. The fun is in watching them do completely unbelievable things. And there's no need for sympathy for the characters -- it's about watching the train wreck that ensues and enjoying all the bizarre and funny lines in the truly inventive script. Of course it's weird. That's what's so fun. Don't think, just watch it and enjoy.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what celebrities they'd like to be and why. Do you think being someone famous would give you the rush it gives the people who go inside John Malkovich's brain? It's a good opportunity to talk about the cult of celebrity and how it makes us feel bad about ourselves in order to sell us more things.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 6, 1999
DVD release date:November 5, 2002
Cast:Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Cusack, John Malkovich
Director:Spike Jonze
Studio:Universal Pictures
Genre:Drama
Run time:112 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and sexuality.

This review of Being John Malkovich was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byChristopher K July 16, 2011
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

Bizarre, Clever, and Unique, But Inconsistent

Being John Malkovich is genius in its bizareness. It's crazy and inventive and witty, but it also begins with more promise than it turns out to have in store for us. The first half hour or so is virtually flawless, but the rest of the movie becomes too dark, too intense, and too different from the first portion of the film. About an hour into the film, I found myself feeling almost bored. The movie begins with an Alice-falling-down-the-rabbit-hole feel to it--and Jon Cusack does in fact fall down something of that nature--but it transforms into something a little too dramatic and a little too intense. Although the movie is a little inconsistent and rather dark, I definitely suggest it to those who appreciate the bizarre. Overall, I was glad that I watched it, and I think others will feel the same if they don't mind the unreserved strangeness. This film is probably okay for most older teens, although there is a lot of bad language, sexual themes (including one fairly explicit, on-screen sex scene), and characters that are not best described as good role models.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 7 and 10 year old Written bykaelcarp March 27, 2013
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

Superb movie, will not be understood by younger teens and kids

I would rate this among the top three or four movies I have ever seen. It is one of the only movies I have seen multiple times in the theater. It is funny, sad, compelling, insightful, surprising, and completely original. A true classic (at least to me). As for kids, I think older teens would get it and have fun with it, especially those who are somewhat heady and intellectual. If you are not comfortable letting your kids watch movies with sexuality, avoid this one, as the sex discussion is very frank (though in no way gratuitous).
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent of a 5 year old Written byslantmaster March 20, 2011
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

One of my favorite films as a kid

My parents showed me a lot of films young and this was likely my favorite film when I was about eight. It didn't disturb me too much and I still like it now. I think younger kids can watch it, they wouldn't understand the messages, it won't be harmful to your child.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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