By Brian Costello,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Some innuendo, profanity in mediocre slapstick comedy.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Although an argument could be made about the importance of teamwork and how crafty underdogs can find a way to defeat those heavily favored to win, this comedy is way too goofy to have much in the way of positive messages.
Positive Role Models
The characters are too silly to be seen as positive role models.
Violence & Scariness
Occasional comedic pratfalls. Characters slip and fall, hitting their heads on floors. A character gets hit in the groin area with a suitcase.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Occasional sexual innuendo. There is talk of the lead character having the words "Welcome Aboard" tattooed on his penis. When a woman joins the all-male crew of a submarine, the captain says things such as, "It will make things hard on us," causing the rest of the crew to giggle. When the captain is alone with the woman, a crew member asks him if he was "polishing the ol' torpedo."
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Frequent profanity: "f--k," "ass," "dammit," "hell," "d--k," "s--tbox," "a--holes," "balls to the wall." Rivals are referred to as "retards."
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Products & Purchases
One of the sailors dresses like a pirate and wears Milwaukee's Best beer cans strapped to his arms.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some of the members of the navy are shown smoking cigars.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Down Periscope is a 1996 film in which Kelsey Grammer plays a naval officer who is given command of a down-at-the-heels submarine and must lead an oddball crew of misfits to victory in a war game that will determine his future. There is occasional sexual innuendo throughout the movie, including references to the lead character having the words "Welcome Aboard" tattooed on his penis. There also is frequent profanity, including "f--k" and "s--t." Overall, this is another run-of-the-mill slapstick comedy in which a group of misfits is asked to achieve great things; adolescents may be interested because of the juvenile humor.
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What's the Story?
Lieutenant Commander Tom Dodge (Kelsey Grammer), currently second-in-command of the nuclear submarine USS Orlando, has been waiting for a long time to be in charge of his own submarine. But his shenanigans, including getting the words "Welcome Aboard" tattooed on his penis, make him an oddball and someone his superiors don't trust or want to have around. Thus he's given command of a rumbling, rusting wreck of a submarine called the USS Stingray, and he's in charge of the biggest misfits his commanding officers can find. Dodge is sent to take the Stingray and crew out to win a two-part war game against his former ship, and, as his commanding officers continue changing the rules against him, Dodge must use every trick in the book to find a way to win and prove his worthiness.
Is It Any Good?
DOWN PERISCOPE is a pretty straightforward screwball comedy involving misfits asked to overachieve even as they engage in all kinds of pratfalls and strange behavior. The laughs are predictable and somewhat funny, but nothing really stands out. The misfit characters don't really go far beyond their basic archetype -- one is trying to get kicked out of the navy, another has very good hearing, and another is the only woman -- and, although you hope they win in the end, you have a feeling they will because that's how so many movies with similar characters and themes end up.
Even with Kelsey Grammer, William H. Macy, Jr., and a background appearance from a young Patton Oswalt, the humor doesn't really amount to much. The formula has been done before so many times that it's difficult to find anything original or memorable in this movie.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about slapstick comedies. Why do you think so many people enjoy this type of humor?
How is the only woman on the submarine treated? Does it seem like an accurate representation of how women might be treated in what has historically been an all-male environment?
In what ways does this movie seem like it might be a somewhat accurate representation of what life in the Navy would be like, and in what ways does it not?
- In theaters: March 1, 1996
- On DVD or streaming: October 1, 2013
- Cast: Kelsey Grammer, Lauren Holly, Rob Schneider
- Director: Hugh Wilson
- Studio: Starz Media
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Some crude language.
- Last updated: January 2, 2023
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