A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the 1996 family drama Bogus is primarily about dealing with the loss of a loved one, in this case a 7-year-old boy's mother, killed in a car accident. With no other family, he's sent far away to be in the care of the mother's foster sister, a best friend when the girls were children and in foster care. An imaginary friend appears to help him through the ordeal but he soon appears to the new caretaker, a person equally damaged by loss and stuck in her childhood trauma. A boy sleepwalks up a dangerously-high ladder. Although played in some cases for humor by great comic actors Whoopi Goldberg and Gerard Depardieu, there's no hiding the sadness at the heart of the story, so parents should be advised that sensitive kids may enjoy the invisible friend, but may also deeply feel the pain that he's there to combat.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
"BOGUS" (Gerard Depardieu) is the charming French imaginary friend who appears to Albert (Haley Joel Osment) after he loses his mother, Lorraine (Nancy Travis), in a car accident. With no father, and friends who all work in a Las Vegas magic show, he's sent to his New Jersey godmother, Harriet (Whoopi Goldberg), Lorraine's childhood foster sister. It soon becomes clear that Harriet hasn't recovered from the losses and damage of her own difficult childhood, which she shared with Lorraine in a foster home. She has heart but it's buried in layers of protective armor, making it difficult for Albert to get the affection and nurturing he needs as he mourns his loss. To cope, Albert, an amateur magician, either conjures -- or is sent -- the make-believe Bogus, a towering, smiling new best pal who dresses like a magician himself in oversized great coat, floppy pants, and brocade vest. Bogus provides the hugs and the shoulder to cry on the mourning boy needs. He's a good influence, advising Albert it's a bad idea to run away, but Albert runs anyway. The movie suggests that not until Harriet allows herself to see the magical Bogus herself and listen to his healing message that she has the breakthrough necessary to be the caring mother and friend Albert needs.
Is it any good?
This movie is whimsical, touching, and has a heart of gold, intelligently designed to appeal to both kids and the parents who might want to provide a comforting lap to sit on during the teary parts. Those include a car accident that results in a mother's death, a boy sleepwalking up a dangerously high ladder, and the general sense of loneliness conveyed by the extraordinary and precocious Osment.
Depardieu, who is a versatile and experienced dramatic actor, pours on believable charm as a huge, warm, healing presence. Goldberg is solid as always, drawing on both her sparkling intelligence and a handy inner store of cantankerousness. Note that while Bogus may not be suitable for those actually mourning a loss, it might help kids understand what others in that situation are going through.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why death is so difficult to explain to kids. How do families explain the end of life?
What are some possible ways to comfort kids who lose loved ones?
Do you or someone you know have an imaginary friend? What purposes do imaginary friends serve?
Bogus raises issues about the hardships that befall children of single working parents. How does the movie convey that Lorraine was a loving and responsible parent?
- In theaters: September 6, 1996
- On DVD or streaming: August 11, 2015
- Cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Gerard Depardieu, Haley Joel Osment, Nancy Travis
- Director: Norman Jewison
- Studio: Universal
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: for thematic elements and some mild language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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