Bye Bye Birdie

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Bye Bye Birdie Movie Poster Image
Fun but dated musical will appeal to parents more than kids.
  • G
  • 1963
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Message that kids can be too obsessed with celebrities, and that this obsession isn't healthy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rosie is a progressive woman who works but also wants a family, showing that women of that era didn't always have to choose one over the other.

Violence

None, unless you count mob scenes of screaming teenage girls trying to catch a glimpse of their favorite rock 'n' roll singer. Plus, some of the girls literally swoon and faint in his vicinity.

Sex

Girls swoon and faint in the presence of a sexy singer. The teenagers are all boy and girl-crazy, but there's nothing more than brief, very chaste kissing in the movie. There is, however, some innuendo (for example, the dad says his daughter will lose "more than sleep" if the rock star stays at their house). There's plenty of discussion about dating, "going steady," "getting pinned," girlfriends/boyfriends, and teenage romance in general. In one conversation, a married couple debates (without ever being explicit about it) whether an engaged couple has had sex or not.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink at dinner parties.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this 1963 movie musical is rated G, but the adolescent-hormone focus of the plot may not be as age-appropriate for early-elementary-aged kids. There's nothing overt or explicit, but the amount of innuendo and the emphasis on high-school romances and celebrity crushes would probably earn this musical a PG rating now. There's some innuendo that will go over little kids' heads -- teenage girls swooning, screaming, and literally fainting in the presence of an attractive singer. Close-up shots of the singer's Elvis-style pelvic-thrusts and references to going steady, kissing, and engagement are prevalent throughout the movie. Otherwise, there's little that parents need to think twice about in the high-school musical. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9 and 12 year old Written byJpalisades May 8, 2011

Dated but super fun for the whole family.

This is one of our favorite movies at our house. Yes, it's dated, yes, the female role models are ridiculous, but in our house the kids are well aware tha... Continue reading
Parent Written byParent of Three March 7, 2011

Good discussion starter for older teens but too many risque images and messages for the pre-teen set.

Aside from the obvious theme of adolescent obsession with a ; heart throb figure...two of the main characters in the movie actually drug the conductor of the ba... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byVenezia June 23, 2014

Great movie

I love this movie and find myself singing the songs all the time! As a teen girl I'm one for romance but everything is too extreme. Hugo and Kim have a ver... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old June 18, 2011

LOVE!!!

its my favorite thing in the whole world i love bye bye birdie more than going to the beach i was even kim in a showcase for a one boy scene i love it overall a... Continue reading

What's the story?

In a clear nod to Elvis Presley, the hugely popular 1950's rock 'n' roll singer Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson) is drafted into the U.S. Army, much to the widespread dismay of his loyal, hysterical teenage fan base. Songwriter Albert Peterson (Dick Van Dyke), who contributed to Birdie's early success, agrees to a plan hatched by his secretary and girlfriend Rosie (Janet Leigh) to have Birdie perform a song penned by Albert on the Ed Sullivan Show, to be followed by a publicity stunt in which the singer bestows one final kiss to a fan before heading off to his military duty. The lucky girl chosen to receive the kiss is the lovely red-head Kim MacAfee (Ann-Margret), to the chagrin of her uptight father Harry (Paul Lynde) and "steady" boyfriend Hugo (singer Bobby Rydell). Albert and Rosie take Birdie to Kim's small hometown in Ohio, where the local teenage girls all swoon over Birdie, while the boys consider him a threat. In preparation for the big performance, Birdie's presence shakes up all of the relationships around him -- from Albert and Rosie, who are engaged but still not married, to the bickering married Mr. and Mrs. MacAfee (Mary LaRoche) to Hugo and Kim, who must overcome his jealousy to stay together.

Is it any good?

The movie is campy fun, and it's always a treat to see Van Dyke and Leigh -- not to mention the gorgeous young Ann-Margret in her breakthrough role. But while this musical includes a couple of recognizable showtunes that get stuck in your head -- most notably Kids (you know it: "What's the matter with kids today?") -- it hasn't stayed in the teen zeitgeist (save for the occasional middle-school production) like the far superior Grease. This is not one of Broadway's most memorable musicals, and the movie adaptation is the equivalent of Disney's High School Musical -- incredibly popular for its day but without real staying power to anyone who's not a big musicals fan.

What does have staying power is the message that kids can be altogether too obsessed with celebrities, to the point of causing true befuddlement to their parents' generation. That aspect of adolescence has only intensified over the years. Decades before Facebook and MySpace made it easy for all of Robert Pattinson's fans to gush over their favorite actor, all teens had were their mail-in fan-clubs and communal hysteria at watching the Ed Sullivan Show, and that's what makes this musical humorous to anyone who has experienced a serious celebrity crush. Birdie is a stand-in for everyone from Elvis (who is obviously being parodied) to the Fab Four to Michael Jackson to today's dozens of musical icons, so despite the dated elements to the musical, the song Kids is one of those anthems any parent can sing -- no matter how hypocritical it may sound.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the evergreen message that teenagers and their pop-culture interests are at odds with their parents' generation. 

  • How are teenage relationships depicted in this musical? How do teenage couples seem different nowadays?

  • Why are high-school musicals so popular? Is there multi-generational appeal to watching movies/musicals about high-school romances?

  • How have teenagers' interests in celebrities changed since the '50s and '60s? Are teens still obsessed with musicians?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love musicals

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