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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a 1988 comedy in which Steve Martin and Michael Caine play dueling con men competing to swindle an American heiress. During another con, Martin mines laughs out of pretending to be mentally challenged: soiling his pants at the dinner table rather than going to the bathroom, breaking objects during pretend temper tantrums, and running around yelling until he's threatened with a "genital cuff." Later, Martin's character pretends to be physically disabled and fakes an accident as he pretends to roll out of control down a set of rocky outdoor steps. There's some drinking -- Martin's character gets drunk with a group of sailors and their girlfriends -- and some cigarette smoking. Viewers hear a reference to "making love" and talk of how Martin's character found his "wife" in bed with another man. Infrequent profanity includes "s--t," "a--hole," and "ass."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, Steve Martin and Michael Caine compete in a battle of sleazy shysters who make their money by conning rich, vulnerable women. When boorish American Freddy Benson (Martin) homes in on debonair European Lawrence Jamieson's (Caine) territory, Jamieson offers to become Benson's tutor. Benson bristles at Jamieson's attempt to condition him, and eventually the two agree to a not-so-friendly competition to bilk a young heiress (Glenne Headly) out of her fortune.
Is it any good?
This sly film is fairly entertaining, but Martin and Caine never establish the chemistry of a great comedy team, and the gags tend to get repetitive. If the film has anything going for it, it's the unpredictability of the game of courtship between two men and one woman.
The difference between European cultural pretension and American crassness is at the center of the comedy. The film is a role reversal of sorts, with men fleecing women who've presumably come upon their fortunes by marrying doddering millionaires. It's enjoyable to watch Caine pretend to be a psychologist, and Martin is as animated as ever, faking paralysis only to dance for joy in the following scene. The story turns into a standard wager plot, with the real winner discovering his scruples just in time to save his soul. Needless to say, the swindlers get their comeuppance, the scammers become the scammed, and the story ends with yet another hoax in the offing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' style of humor. How does this movie mine laughs out of iffy behavior? Is that OK?
How might those who are or have close friends or family members who are mentally or physically disabled feel about the scenes in which Martin feigns those conditions? Do you think the movie is making fun of mentally or physically challenged people, or is the comedy more rooted in the lengths to which these characters will go to steal from their unwitting victims?
How do the lead characters rationalize what they do? Does that make it OK? Why or why not?
For kids who love to laugh
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.