Critical Condition

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Critical Condition Movie Poster Image
Signature crassness serves no purpose in weak '80s comedy.
  • R
  • 1987
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Doing good for others is rewarding, teaches you about yourself, and can change your life in surprising ways. Some negative messages involve dated, lax attitudes toward sex, drugs, and smoking and are played for laughs.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kevin is an unsuccessful, small-time real-estate developer whose desperation for cash leads him into shady dealings with the mob. But he discovers he has real leadership qualities and a lot to offer the world on the up and up. Hospital administrator Rachel is a good role model as a woman in authority and as someone who thinks patient well-being and safety should come before the bottom line. Other hospital patients and personnel are mostly negative models: naysayer, penny pincher, drug addict, and so on. Most characters are changed for the better in the end. 


Most violence or threats of violence are played for comedy. Guns and knives are brandished, guns are fired, and people are threatened at knifepoint. Mention of throat cutting, getting beaten in jail. A few scuffles with kicks and punches (including one between the legs); one scuffle with a nightstick. A brief fistfight. A police officer is jumped from behind, and later it's mentioned that he was found dead of strangulation; the body's not shown. Internal organs in glass containers in a laboratory aren't very realistic. An attempted kidnapping at knifepoint. A criminal starts a fire with gasoline.


Most sexual content is crass and played for humor. A scene in an adult bookstore shows blowup dolls in suggestive positions, scantily clad women posing suggestively on posters, and a "nudie" magazine with no nudity visible but the word "centerfold" featured prominently; mention of dildos. Men discuss whether a woman in a magazine (not shown) has "big ones or little ones." A man simulates masturbation. A man pretends to be a dog humping another's leg. Having "the clap" mentioned a few times. A zipper sound effect as a man leans in toward a woman. A woman in sexy lingerie pretends to need a doctor and touches her breasts over her bra. Off camera she's implied to be touching her genital area as well. A hernia exam simulates a doctor grabbing a man's testicles and squeezing hard, causing pain. A baby being born is shown from the side at a medium distance. "Blow job" mentioned.


"S--t," "f--k," and variations are frequent. Less frequent are "ass" (body part), "jerk-off" (name-calling), "slut," "bitch," "wank off," "damn," "motherf--ker," "t-ts," "hell," "goddamn," "fatso," "pee," "d--k" (body part), "chickens--t," "penis head," and "bastard." Someone is called a "piece of pig fart." Being "on the rag" mentioned once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A prominent minor character is one of a dozen or so "junkies" at the hospital drug clinic for their methadone treatments; being a junkie, needing a fix, and being incapable of doing much are frequently joked about. No drug use is shown, and the characters do pitch in during a crisis and accomplish a lot. Men drink while negotiating business. Many background characters smoke. Kevin accepts a box of cigarettes from a stranger. Later he takes them out, says he quit smoking, but starts to light one, saying smoking relieves tension.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Critical Condition is a hospital comedy starring Richard Pryor that's full of strong language (especially frequent are "s--t" and "f--k") and crass humor about sex and drugs. Violence is infrequent, not gory, and often slapstick or played for laughs (an attempted kidnapping at knifepoint isn't played for comedy, but it's not very scary, either). Teens may be drawn to the "blue" material, but it serves no purpose here and doesn't showcase the razor-sharp genius that rocketed Pryor to fame in the '70s.

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What's the story?

Kevin Lanahan (Richard Pryor) is an unsuccessful, small-time real-estate developer who finds himself in CRITICAL CONDITION when his deal with a mobster goes south during a bust. The only way to avoid prison would be to prove he's insane. While he's in the psych ward undergoing evaluation, an opportunity to escape comes along in the form of a hurricane that cuts all electricity to the hospital. As he's sneaking his way out, the rookie administrator mistakes Kevin for a new ER doctor she's been expecting. Even without knowing the first thing about medicine, he discovers he has real leadership qualities and is a powerful and positive force for good. But is it enough to make him alter his plans for escape?

Is it any good?

Teens and families looking to discover the genius behind one of modern comedy's most influential figures, and even those just looking for a few good belly laughs, should keep looking. The weak, predictable story and stiff, corny dialogue don't offer genuine laughs. And unfortunately, Richard Pryor's charisma and talent aren't enough to get us caring about his character -- he's just not at the top of his game. Sadness, and maybe more than a little fatigue, seem to be lurking just under the surface of his performance. Sure, there's plenty of crass, profane humor if that's what you're in the mood for, but Critical Condition has so little else to offer that it mostly comes across as tired schtick.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about all the swearing in Critical Condition. Does it make the movie funnier? Does it help make the characters believable? Why do you think there's so much of it?

  • What is the movie's attitude about drug use? Did you know that Richard Pryor himself struggled with addiction? Does that change your opinion about how the "junkies" are portrayed?

  • Kevin learns he's capable of a lot more than he thought when he's suddenly in a leadership role. Have you ever been surprised to learn what you're capable of? What chances have you had, or might you take in the future, to learn something new about yourself?

Movie details

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For kids who love to laugh

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