A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 1970 adaptation of Joseph Heller's classic satire of warfare and the military presents an unsentimental picture of war. There are several scenes of graphic violence, including a shot of a dying soldier's bloody intestines, plus a man being cut in half by a fighter plane. Soldiers go to brothels and there are a couple scenes of nudity. Though dark, the movie includes plenty of black humor, which takes some of the edge off the violence. While not right for every teen, the film provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the harsh realities of warfare along with the film's deeper, timeless message.
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What's the story?
Captain John Yossarian (Alan Arkin) is trying to end his tour of duty as a bombardier in World War II Italy, but every time he gets closer to reaching the required number of missions, "the brass" raise the number of flight missions needed to achieve this goal. He claims to be crazy and requests that he flies no more missions due to this, but by claiming to be crazy and unable to fly, he shows that he is rational and sane and must fly. Such is the CATCH-22, the no-win situation Yossarian finds himself in as he's mired in warfare and military bureaucracy with his fellow comrades in the absurdities of battle and day-to-day survival.
Is it any good?
The film version of Catch-22 -- while firmly rooted in the countercultural tenor of the early 1970's -- stands the test of time almost as brilliantly as the classic 1961 novel. Coming off the success of The Graduate, director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Buck Henry's next project was an adaptation of Joseph Heller's classic antiwar dark satire. The film boasts an all-star cast (for 1970, anyway) of everyone from Alan Arkin to Orson Welles, Bob Newhart to Martin Sheen. Its evergreen comments on the devastation of war, the absurdity of bureaucracy, and the blind greed of those who profit from others' misery hold up even today.
Catch-22 isn't so much a linear plot as it is a collection of instances involving revolving cast of characters responding to war in their own ways. There is Dobbs (played by Jon Voight), who finds the markets and the money to be made in the "opportunity." There is Orr (played by a very young Bob Balaban), who views his plane crashes as "practice runs" for a future escape. And then, there is Yossarian, who, for all his glib talk and outrageous antics and claims of insanity, emerges as the only character who seems sane surrounded by so much craziness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the term "Catch-22." Since the release of this classic novel by Joseph Heller in 1961, the term is used to describe many situations besides those encountered during war. What are some examples of "Catch-22" in day-to-day life?
As the film's hero, how does Yossarian compare to other heroes in war movies? How is Catch-22 a different sort of war movie than others you've seen? Do you think it translates well from the book?
How does Catch-22 use satire to make profound comments on war, bureaucracy, and definitions of sanity?