Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

 
(i)

 

Loopy, foul-mouthed drug comedy isn't meant for kids.
  • Review Date: February 1, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie is a pure immersion into a few days of depraved behavior with no real point or consequences. The characters travel to Las Vegas to write a couple of magazine stories, but they mostly fail to accomplish that. Instead, they abuse their press privileges, act strangely and violently, consume a massive amount of drugs and alcohol, run out on hotel bills, abuse rental cars, and threaten and lie to others. At the end, no lesson is learned except that maybe the days of the counterculture are just about over.

Positive role models

The characters engage in various forms of debauchery with little or no lessons learned and no consequences for their actions. With his rebellious attitude and playful, cynical word usage, the real Hunter S. Thompson may be an inspiration for young writers, but these characters aren't. The Thompson-like lead character, "Raoul Duke," doesn't follow through on his assignments, and although his narration features some of Thompson's real-life writing, in the context of the movie, it only serves to celebrate the character's bad behavior.

Violence

Guns and knives are pulled but rarely used. A character flies into a violent drug rage, wielding a knife, but winds up locked in a bathroom. There's reckless, dangerous driving, as well as plenty of violence in the dialogue (including a description of gang rape), with characters threatening one another and playing out verbal scenarios of violence. In one sequence, the two lead characters discuss how to get rid of a young girl who's become a nuisance; the answer (though only implied) is unspeakably horrific.

Sex

Lewd and sometimes violent sex acts are discussed and described in the dialogue, but hardly anything is shown. A couple of Playboy-type centerfold pictures are briefly on view. Women are seen kissing in the background, and a male traffic cop asks to kiss the (also male) lead character.

Language

Incessant strong language permeates the film from beginning to end, including just about every word under the sun. Multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "t-ts," "bastard," "ass," "damn," "whore," "hell," "goddamn," "oh my God," "Jesus" (as an exclamation), "scum sucker," "swine," mentions of sodomy and castration, and racial slurs like "Spic."

Consumerism

Occasional brand names of alcohol (Wild Turkey, etc.) and car makes (Cadillac, etc.).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Excessive, constant drinking and drug use throughout the entire film. Characters drive under the influence, trash hotel rooms and rental cars, fail to turn up to work, leave unpaid hotel bills, and suffer little or no consequences for their actions. Drugs include cocaine, pot, acid, mescaline, pills, ether, a mention of opium, and -- in one scene -- some "adrenochrome," or human adrenaline. Drinks include beer, rum, tequila, and whisky. Somewhat ironically, there isn't much cigarette smoking.

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.

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?

QUALITY
 

As directed by Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits, 12 Monkeys), 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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 22, 1998
DVD release date: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

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written byitsrainingfrogs July 14, 2014
 

Director Gilliam says teens understand his film best

In the commentary on the Criterion Collection edition of the film, director Terry Gilliam says that kids age 13-15 seem to get his film the best. The film is a surreal, funny, and thoughtful adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's landmark book of the same name. The film follows Thompson, under the alias Raoul Duke, as he goes to Las Vegas with his attorney to write about a motorcycle race, and ends up going on various other misadventures. Anchored by two amazing lead performances by Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, the great film also has a excellent 60s and 70s soundtrack and a hilarious lineup of cameos, from Tobey Maguire to Gary Busey. I'd also like to note that the film reminded me of the glory of filmmaking when I watched it. Sex: No sex or nudity. Occasional sexual references, including a scene of Duke describing his attorney sexually assaulting a young girl to him. Violence: Some comedic violence. Duke's attorney, Gonzo, occasionally threatens people with a gun and a knife. Intense scene in which Gonzo asks Duke to throw a radio into the bathtub. Language: Semi-frequent strong language. Substance Abuse: Duke has a cigarette in his mouth the entire film. Several other characters are seen smoking. Many characters drink alcohol. The two lead characters are almost constantly under the influence of drugs. Cocaine and acid are seen used onscreen. Several unknown drugs are used, including a fictitious drug invented for the film. The movie is filmed in a dizzying way to simulate the influence of the drugs the characters are using. Intensity: The movie is a comedy, so very few intense scenes. The bathtub scene is intense. An intense scene in which Duke tries a fictitious drug that causes him to hallucinate Gonzo is a demonic creature.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written by1upmushroom November 3, 2012
 

It's raunchy, insane, violent, ugly, and one of my favorite films period.

This film is for a specific kind of people. It's one of those films that will most likely disgust you then entertain you if you're not familiar with or a fan of Hunter S. Thompson. However I happen to be both and let me tell you. I LOVE THIS MOVIE! God, I freaking love this movie! It's an entire film of madness, violence drug use, the main characters can be complete jerks at times, the sets are intimidating, some of the sequences are completely unwatchable for some people, but for me Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is my all time favorite movie. You see I like crazy movies like this, I like the kind of insanity this movie gives me it's just great! Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro are great as Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo (respectively) but of course my favorite character is Duke. Some of the biggest laughs for me come from the backgrounds or sometimes they come from minor elements. The hallucinations make this film funny but definitely in a "should I be laughing?" kind of way. Like I said, the movie is NOT for everyone, especially kids but then again I did see this movie when I was 14 so there you go. Reasons as to why this movie isn't for everyone mostly have to do with the fact that even though Duke Dr. Gonzo abuse almost every single drug known to man they always get away with it. They don't go to prison, they don't get in trouble, in fact they actually cause trouble throughout the entire film. Plus, some of the situations the main characters get into can be very unsettling and sometimes downright disturbing but if you have a strong stomach and a liking for the insane I'm sure you'll be able to sit through it, I know I sure did. My closing comments are this, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a great movie but is not for kids, and even some adults too. But for those who like crazy and wild movies with a mean edge then I definitely recommend this classic.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bychristian2011 September 2, 2012
 

Movie ALL about drugs and it's side effects/consequences in a VERY explicit manner.

Fearing & Loathing in Las Vegas is a movie strictly meant for adults, and just because it's some sort of black comedy doesn't mean it's just a movie meant to be funny. No. This movie contains pervasive and extremely graphic drug use which you see people vomitting, having bizzare and frightening hallucinations, going into crazy rages upon others and killing them, etc. Language is another serious issue. It involves nearly non-stop use of the words f**k, sh*t, c**t, d**k, c**k, religious profanities, and very crude sexual dialogue and references said in an explicit manner. It may be rated R but I believe it should be at least NC-17. Children should NOT watch this because it will probably influence them into becoming a drug addict, but the most mature teenagers possible COULD watch this, but give them a serious warning about the movie's explicit content about drugs and the extreme abuse involved. I'm only trying to help families and their children understand that this movie has the potential to influence younger viewers into drugs, and that's a very deadly and serious issue.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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