A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is replete with playful fighting and slapstick violence, including some "don't try this at home" moments, like when George clings to the roof of a speeding car. There's more than a little bit of insensitive racial/religious stereotyping in the villains, a bunch of (mostly Anglo) actors playing robed cult fanatics from India, but just about all the characters are cartoon caricatures, including the Beatles themselves.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
The immortal rock-pop quartet the Beatles (John, Paul, George, and Ringo) star in this full-color, wild farce. It's never explained how, but drummer Ringo is the proud owner of a sacred giant ruby. A fanatical religious cult must sacrifice any human bearing the ring, and so they pursue the Beatles for most of the movie, setting bizarre traps in the Fab Four's gimmicky high-tech mansion, and even attacking them at safe havens like Buckingham Palace. Since the uncanny ring refuses to come off Ringo's finger, the lads consult a mad scientist. What do you know? He starts chasing Ringo as well, claiming that with the ring he and his doofus assistant can rule the world.
Is it any good?
From the same director (Richard Lester) as the Beatles' pitch-perfect screen debut A Hard Day's Night, this is a far less realistic comedy about a band on the run. The practically freeform plot, full of international-intrigue and "mod" vibes, typifies the James Bond 007 spoofs ubiquitous back then, maybe with a touch of embryonic Monty Python spirit. Of course, a handful of great Beatles songs on the soundtrack don't hurt either.
The plot has scant rhyme or reason, just a disconnected barrage of madcap pursuits and ambush episodes in scenic locations, with old-fashioned, random title cards ("Paul's Exciting Adventure on the Floor") in a childish narrative kids might actually follow better than adult viewers. A lot of the British-specific landmarks and topics -- references to the "brain drain" problem, and English Channel swimmers -- will go way over American viewers' heads, though.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of the Beatles as characters, then and now. Do you think this film nails it just as well as A Hard Day's Night or other Beatles features and documentaries? Do you think Help! has stood the test of time? In its daft style-over-substance plot and imagery, does Help! seem like the ancestor of the MTV music video?
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