A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the heroine here behaves every bit the way a roguish male action-hero would (think of James Bond especially). That means she's not only strong and assertive, resourceful and unyielding in hand-to-hand combat against villains, but also sexually active, non-monogamous, and able to drink any man under the table. She also gets bloodied quite a bit in fights (but recovers pretty quickly). At one point she disguises herself as a cleavage-baring prostitute.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
This swashbuckling tale follows the adventures of lady pirate Morgan (Geena Davis), whose mortally wounded father bequeaths her his ship and crew, and tells her the location of the hidden map before he expires. But ambitious and greedy pirate Uncle Dawg (Frank Langella) is also after he fabulous treasure of plundered Spanish gold hidden on uncharted Cutthroat Island, and thus begins a booty-fueled race between Morgan and Dawg. Morgan needs a Latin scholar who can translate the map, so she buys one at a (white) slave auction of colonial prisoners. Enter the dashing Shaw (Matthew Modine), a con-artist thief who becomes Morgan's love interest.
Is it any good?
With massive sailing-ships and port cities in Malta and Thailand, the high-budget Cutthroat Island is a giddy swashbuckling pirate adventure that never stops moving with the action-cliffhangers. Aside from size and cost, the film's major difference from most other Hollywood pirate swashbucklers is that it's a roguish lass wielding the cutlass. Commendably, even with hunky Shaw on board, Morgan remains the take-charge central figure.
Still, Davis doesn't seem to know whether to play it straight or comedic, even though she throws her all physically into the demanding role. Kids might especially like Morgan's expressive pet monkey. Parents might not favor her lifestyle, with its glorified drinking and (non-explicit) action-hero sex. But the films opens up discussion about real female pirates, such as Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the gender-switch in the character of Morgan. Do you think this swaggering pirate woman makes an effective heroine or not? If much the movie had been done with a male lead instead (picture a favorite like Jackie Chan or Tom Cruise) how would that have changed the storyline? Would audiences have accepted the movie more? You could discuss sexual equality (and double standards) in real-life situations, such as jobs and sports, and even the few historical records of actual lady pirates.
- In theaters: December 22, 1995
- On DVD or streaming: May 22, 2007
- Cast: Frank Langella, Geena Davis, Matthew Modine, Maury Chaykin
- Director: Renny Harlin
- Studio: Artisan Entertainment
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some strong pirate action/violence and brief sensuality
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