A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this1994 comedy with fantasy touches contains fairly strong language, including many uses of "s--t" and one use of "f--k." There is some slapstick violence, as well as death. Characters think about sex often, although nothing is ever shown or mentioned outright (there's plenty of innuendo). Characters are also depicted as drunk, though rarely seen drinking, and characters smoke. The movie is a universally loathed flop, although in some quarters it may have the potential to be a cult classic; the humor is so off-kilter and weird that viewers with an open mind and/or a warped sense of humor will love it.
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What's the story?
Nathanial Mayweather (Chris Elliott) is a spoiled, educated "fancy lad," who is destined for a life of ease and luxury. Unfortunately, after graduating, he is waylaid on his way to his ship and accidentally boards a rundown fishing vessel called "The Filthy Whore." The ship's captain and crew can't stand Nathanial and try many ways to deal with him, both putting him to work and attempting to get rid of him. He tries to detour the ship to Hawaii but ends up in a mystical region called "Hell's Bucket" where strange things begin happening. Meanwhile, a Guinness Book distance swimmer (Melora Walters) also boards the ship, and Nathanial begins to learn to be a man at last. But is it too late? Look for David Letterman in a silly cameo.
Is it any good?
This universally loathed flop may have the makings of a cult classic, although at the moment it's more of a guilty pleasure; no one wants to admit that they like it. Star and co-writer Chris Elliott had come from Saturday Night Live and David Letterman as well as his own short-lived cult TV show Get a Life, but nothing could have prepared audiences for this weird, fantastical adventure with strange visuals and off-kilter rhythms. (Tim Burton was a producer and it definitely seems to have his touch.)
Elliott plays a distinctly unlikable character, although none of the other characters have much in the way of redeeming qualities either. Yet, this deliberately provocative approach has its benefits. The humor is so decidedly weird and unexpected that open-minded viewers may find themselves amused at any given moment. It might help if you were already aware of Elliott's deliberately annoying comic persona, or if you were a fan of cult actors like Brion James, James Gammon, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Russ Tamblyn.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Nathanial's character. Why is he so selfish? Why would a life of privilege make someone turn out like that? What does he learn over the course of the movie?
This movie was a commercial and critical flop when it opened in 1994. Has the movie aged well? What were some things people didn't like about it? Does it have any redeeming qualities? Is it funny? Why?
For kids who love comedy
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