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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Not much of a cohesive moral to Brooks' pageant of puns and "blue" humor, except maybe that the so-called dignity of man doesn't amount to much. The catchphrase repeated in the French Revolution segment has become something of a motto: It's Good to Be the King.
Positive Role Models
Most everyone is a buffoon of some sort, with some characters, like Emperor Nero and King Louis XVI silly but skin-deep caricatures of lust, power, and callousness. The only person of color, an "Ethiopian" (played by dancer-actor Gregory Hines) seems to know more than anyone else about marijuana. Exaggerated Jewish accents distinguish some characters (like Moses).
Violence & Scariness
Jokey violence-slapstick includes a caveman killed by a spear and another grabbed in a dinosaur's jaws (neither very realistic). A punch-out. A horse is whipped. Slapstick battling with swords and shields and crotch kicks. Tortures of the Spanish Inquisition are rendered all in fun (no gore) as sight gags.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Male bare-butt scene in a lineup of potential lovers for a queen. King Louis fondles breasts and otherwise sexually harasses women, one of whom agrees to trade sex for clemency (but doesn't have to go through with it). Sex jokes about virgins, "gang bang" orgies, masturbation, verbal double-entendres about penises, homosexuality, and sodomy. A Roman empress is named Nympho. Revealing costumes worn by buxom women.
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The s-word, "anus," "piss," "ass," "f----t," a few racial slurs. The f-word. "S-O-B," "bastard," and "Jesus!"
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Products & Purchases
Caesar's Palace casino in Las Vegas gets a couldn't-resist plug. Talk of Preparation H.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Marijuana plants, joint-rolling, and mellow "highs" are part of the Roman storyline. Wine drinking and drunkenness.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that sex-based humor and bathroom-level gags abound, about flatulence, urination, erections, and other body functions. There is regular swearing, with one use of the f-word. Certain dirty jokes (like the opening masturbation scene) will call for uncomfortable explanations for young audiences; others -- like reference to showbiz icons Irving "Swifty" Lazar and Henny Youngman -- will need historical enlightenment. There is a lengthy marijuana gag, in which a gigantic joint (rolled by the only black character) mellows out antagonists. Some scenes make fun of nuns and Catholic iconography. Jesus Christ shows up in one sketch, but actually gets treated more or less respectfully. Moses is not so lucky, oy veh. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The critics who (like a Roman emperor) gave HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART 1 a thumbs-down probably got spoiled by Brooks' preceding masterpieces. He'd become popular for his knowing, affectionate Hollywood-genre spoofs like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. This doesn't even try subverting old gladiator flicks or epic movies (neither did Epic Movie). It's just Mel having fun with puns, big sets, period costumes, and fave actors for 90 minutes, offering up some hoary clunkers, ("walk this way..."), comedic brilliance (a laugh-out-loud cameo by Moses), and a few ebullient song-and-dance routines -- like a keeper production number on the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition.
Clean jokes and tasteless gags bump around in equal measure (if the PG-13 had existed in 1981, this could have dodged the R), sometimes funny, sometimes not. The French Revolution segment, pretty much the third act, is the weakest. Every funnyman knows you need a big finish.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.