By Nancy Davis Kho,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Jimmy Stewart + a 6' rabbit = a family delight.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The main character is studiously pleasant, polite, and kind to every single being he encounters. Other characters are presented as jealous, dismissive, or controlling, but all are transformed by their contact with this gentle man and his invisible friend.
Violence & Scariness
Some wrestling of psychiatric patients into cells and a short but bloodless barroom brawl.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Nothing shown, but one character mistakenly concludes that she was going to be sexually assaulted by the orderly at the Sanitarium. Surreptitious romance between the orderly and the character's daughter ensues.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main character may be alcoholic and spends a great deal of time in bars or making plans to be there. Others discuss alcoholism as the source of his problems, but he seems perfectly functional, and the other bar patrons are much more tolerant of the main character's quirks than his sober friends and family.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie is a gentle, consistently funny, and endearing story of a man who may or may not be crazy and his best friend, an invisible 6-foot 3 1/2-inch rabbit named Harvey. The movie raises the possibility that what defines "crazy" for one person may be the perfect definition of happiness for another. Wonderful acting, rich characters, and nonstop subtle humor will keep children and parents laughing. But there are a number of references to the possibility of alcoholism here and plenty of bar scenes and drinking.
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Where to Watch
Based on 3 parent reviews
Fine, just perhaps over young-uns' heads.
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What's the Story?
HARVEY, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Mary Chase, is a classic tale of relentlessly pleasant Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart) and his best friend Harvey, a white rabbit that only Elwood can see. His eccentric insistence on the real existence of his friend have driven his sister Veta (Josephine Hull, who won an Academy Award for this performance) and niece Myrtle Mae (Peggy Dow) to distraction. They fear that Myrtle Mae will never be accepted into polite society and find a husband with her crazy uncle in the background, and decide to have him committed to a sanitarium called Chumley Rest. They don't bank on other characters having the same reaction to Elwood that the audience might; namely, that they are the ones needing psychiatric confinement and that Elwood is perfectly sane, if a bit unusual.
Is It Any Good?
Slapstick humor, sophisticated dialogue, and perfect timing combine to create a rare blend of humor and thoughtful commentary about the nature of happiness and mental health.
According to an interview with Stewart from the 1990s included on the DVD, the role of Elwood P. Dowd was one of his very favorites. Mr. Dowd has the magical ability to make those he meets feel better about themselves, and to elevate those special qualities in those around them. Stewart also brings something of his own magical abilities to this film. Watching his Oscar-nominated performance, acting against thin air in his one-sided conversations with Harvey, the viewer can't shake the notion that the rabbit is as real as Elwood believes.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the relationship between Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey. Is Harvey real? Why is Elwood the only one who will admit to seeing him? Have you ever had an imaginary friend, or been able to imagine something that no one else seems to understand? When Veta and Myrtle Mae try to make Elwood go to Chumley Rest, do they do it out of love or cowardice? Why are misunderstood characters so popular in movies and books? What other characters like Elwood can you think of?
- In theaters: October 13, 1950
- On DVD or streaming: March 18, 2003
- Cast: James Stewart, Josephine Hull, Peggy Dow
- Director: Henry Koster
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Classic
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: December 7, 2022
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