Dragnet (1987)

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Dragnet (1987) Movie Poster Image
Lots of naughty behavior, laughs in TV cop spoof.
  • PG-13
  • 1987
  • 106 minutes

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Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Joe Friday is supposed to be the paragon of the law-abiding, perfectly groomed straight-arrow American cop, and some of this rubs off on the rebellious young Pep Streebek. Still, the arc of Friday's character has him learning to loosen up and bend/break his own rules, with reckless driving, dating, sex, etc. The life of a porno publisher looks rather glamorous and filled with attractive sex-bomb girls, imagine that.


Much shooting in the finale, plus explosions and arson fires. Cars blown up by bombs and crashed in high-speed police chases. Street punks threaten Joe Friday with knives and martial-arts weapons. Hand-to-hand combat, crotch kicks, and characters wrestling a large snake.


A pole dancer in a thong and pasties on her nipples is about as naked as one could get without being fully nude. A suplot involves a softcore-magazine publisher (with vaguely Hugh Hefner attributes). A character is referred to as "the virgin" repeatedly.


Swearing for comedic effect, mainly from a foulmouthed landlady ("s--t," "asswipe" ) old enough to be a grandmother. Plus "Goddamn" and "balls."


Nods to other movies (including the Nightmare on Elm Street series), salutes to Los Angeles landmarks and attractions, such as the Brown Derby restaurant.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking, including Streebek guzzling wine by the bottle. Both the hero (Friday) and the villain smoke, even though other characters mildly disapprove. Drug humor in the presence of a variety of illicit pills (to which Streebek takes quite a fancy).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there are sexual shenanigans here, given a subplot about a millionaire porn merchant and a heroine stated to be a confirmed virgin. Pretty much nude is an exotic dancer wearing only nipple pasties and a thong. A storm of swear words issue from one female character old enough to be a grandmother (that's apparently the joke). Violent acts include bloodless gun violence, car crashes/police chases, and a modified tank as battering ram. A powerful priest with Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson attributes turns out to be a lascivious, devil-worshipping master villain. His outdoor Satanist ritual looks like a big party (with Nazi rally overtones). There is a winking attitude towards drugs, drinking, and smoking. An older Dragnet exists on video -- also co-starring Harry Morgan -- but it's the original straight version, not this popular comedy.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byChristopherGraham September 30, 2012

Dragnet Review

I thought this movie was really good for many reasons. It had a pretty catchy storyline, it has a really good cast, it's a pretty popular comedy, and it di... Continue reading

What's the story?

The forerunner of DRAGNET was a classic 1950s/'60s TV crime drama (previous to that, a radio show) in which actor Jack Webb played no-nonsense Los Angeles policeman Joe Friday, with a memorable theme song, catchphrases ("Just the facts, ma'am") and monotone diction that was much parodied, even while the show was still running. A Dragnet feature film was even done in 1954. The new Joe Friday (Dan Aykroyd) is the nephew of the original, and still a proud, hard-driving, immaculately clean-cut LAPD detective. Friday gets a new, younger partner named Pep Streebek (Tom Hanks), who acts like a fun-loving big kid, to Friday's disgust. Together they investigate P.A.G.A.N. (People Against Goodness And Normalcy), a gang committing bizarre acts of vandalism and robbery, especially targeting a Playboy-style magazine. The secret mastermind behind P.A.G.A.N. is a high-profile preacher and conservative opinion-leader (Christopher Plummer) who moonlights in Satan-worship, virgin sacrifices, and racketeering in his efforts to take over the city.

Is it any good?

The movie is consistently funny. But what's the point, besides confronting the ultimate unflappable squaresville cop Joe Friday with such not-ready-for-prime-time offenses as strip clubs, pin-up girls, and devil cults? It all comes together thanks to Dan Aykroyd's dead-on impression of Jack Webb's persona. Even within the confines of a comic caricature, Aykroyd creates a surprisingly sympathetic and fleshed-out hero with the staccato-talking, time-frozen 1950s Joe Friday, and in the course of the outsized mayhem Friday learns to loosen up and form a bond with his mismatched boyish partner (team-player Tom Hanks is not only good, he doesn't try to overshadow his co-star's extravagant schtick).

With prominent Saturday Night Live talent involved, there is quite a bit of topical (euphemism for badly-out-of-date) satire, involving the Moral Majority, the movie dud Yes Giorgio, and a closing Aykroyd-Hanks rap-music (!) theme song that's sooooo stuck in the 1980s.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of cop movies, TV shows, and other media, from the Dick Tracy comic strip all the way to CSI. Do they make kids want to be police officers? Ask some real-life officers if Joe Friday or other fictional characters inspired them to go into law enforcement. Or do they relate to any of these outlandish, outsized Hollywood versions at all? So kids get a full appreciation of Dan Aykroyd's Friday impersonation, check out some of the vintage TV show on DVD or streaming online.

Movie details

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