A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a two-hour celebration of drugs, foul language, and debauchery, with little or no consequences, redemption, or lessons learned. Lead character Raoul Duke (played by Johnny Depp before he became really popular with more mainstream audiences) is based on famous "Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson -- but there's little actual writing going on in the movie amid the fog of drugs, drinking, and swearing. Although little actual sex is shown, there's plenty of violent and depraved sexual imagery in the dialogue, yet another reason this movie absolutely isn't for kids. But for adults -- especially those already inducted into the Thompson cult -- the movie is a hilarious cult favorite.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Freelance journalist Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) travels to Las Vegas in 1971, accompanied by his friend/attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro). Duke has been assigned to cover a desert motorcycle race, but a drinking and drug binge causes him to miss most of the evnt. He tries to skip out on a trashed hotel room and an expensive bill when he learns that he's been assigned to another story -- a district attorney/police convention in another part of town. But he blows this story, too, due to another binge (although he manages to record most of his experience this time). In the end, he writes a book about the entire experience and what it meant in the grand scheme of things.
Is it any good?
As directed by Terry Gilliam, this seemingly pointless celebration of bad behavior is also a hilarious and crazily visual comedy for adults already inducted into the Hunter S. Thompson cult. The movie sets a bizarre, frantic pace and sustains it successfully for its entire running time. Gilliam's extraordinary camerawork -- as well as weird makeup and visual effects -- attempts to capture the feel of a real drug trip, as well as some imaginatively trashed hotel rooms afterward. (What is that brown liquid all over the floor?)
In the lead role, Depp throws himself completely into Duke's thinly disguised Thompson's persona and delivers an amazing, hilarious performance. Del Toro is intense and rather frightening as the crazed Dr. Gonzo, and several recognizable faces -- including Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz, and more -- turn up in cameos. FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS definitely isn't for every taste, but adults (not kids!) who appreciate something out of the ordinary might enjoy it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie depicts substance use and abuse. Why don't the characters suffer more consequences for their behavior? What message does this send to viewers?
The movie makes the lead characters look cool, but in a few scenes, we see them through the eyes of others. How cool would they really look to a bystander?
How did the movie's bizarre, psychedelic imagery make you feel? What do you think the filmmakers' intent was?
- In theaters: May 22, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: November 17, 1998
- Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Christina Ricci, Johnny Depp, Tobey Maguire
- Director: Terry Gilliam
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive extreme drug use and related bizarre behavior, strong language, and brief nudity
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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