Casino Royale (1967)
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is not the serious 2006 version of Casino Royale, but rather a wild, pull-out-the-stops comical put-on of the 007 films, done in 1960s "psychedelic" style. It's really a lot like the later Austin Powers spoofs, right down to the disjointed and nonsensical plotting. And, like Austin Powers, this makes much of the erotic content of the James Bond adventures, with luscious women as sex objects. Overall, though, it's at the milder end of the smut and vulgarity scale than Mike Myers' movies, and parents won't be squirming so much through it -- unless they're bored. Still, some parents might also object to the romanticization of high-stakes gambling as a way to defeat the bad guys.
What's the story?
In this 1967 James Bond spoof, major world military leaders ask retired superspy Sir James Bond (David Niven) to stop a diabolical organization called SMERSH. Sir James now runs a spy business which includes his wimpy nephew "Jimmy" Bond (Woody Allen). (It's mentioned in the film that Sir James is not the "real" James Bond). After escaping SMERSH's assassination attempts, Sir James decides to confuse the enemy by recruiting and training more "James Bonds," including bespectacled card expert Evelyn Trimble (Peter Sellers), who is enticed by sexy superspy Vesper Lynde (Ursula Andress) to win a high-stakes gambling match against SMERSH underboss Le Chiffre (Orson Welles) in the lavish Casino Royale. Eventually the plot goes to pieces, with cowboys and Indians, armed squads of lovely girls, performing animals, Frankenstein, a flying saucer, and other outrageousness.
Is it any good?
CASINO ROYALE was so overstuffed with gags, sets, international stars, and mainstream-movie excess that it become something of a legendary folly. Five directors were hired for this very loose take on Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel. The original Casino Royale plan called for each director to cover a narrative thread, then pass the script along to the next in line. Top-billed Peter Sellers feuded with Orson Welles and quit the film, which meant rewrites, body doubles, and reshoots.
Unless you like your Bonds completely straight-faced -- the film is funny, in its overindulgent, zany way. Casino Royale remains a goofball outcast among the Bond movies. Kids, especially the fans of Austin Powers and Mini-Me, should enjoy the playful tone, though there are several moments that may bore them -- like some long-winded dialogue and seduction scenes set to sleepy Burt Bacharach music.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the strange story behind this film and the many, many star actors, visual references, and celebrity gag cameos that most kids won't know -- like Jean-Claude Belmondo, George Raft, and the Berlin Wall -- that had instant audience recognition at the time. Their very appearance was meant to get a laugh. Tell kids that when they're grownups, young audiences might fail to comprehend jokes about Britney Spears or Saddam Hussein from today's comedies. Parents might also use Casino Royale to point out the difference between short-lived, topical humor and the more universal comedy of Charlie Chaplin or even Charlie Brown, that still holds up decades later.