Howard the Duck

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Howard the Duck Movie Poster Image
Superhero spoof is awful -- and edgier than you remember.
  • PG
  • 1986
  • 111 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 20 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Howard supposedly earns hero points for sacrificing his route home in order to save humanity. Still, few qualities here worth admiring (unless you count the idea that the "villainous" Dr. Jennings, before getting possessed by evil aliens, is fine with helping beam Howard back to his home planet, rather than dissecting or exploiting him for research like so many scientists in flicks like this). Heavy-handed stereotypes include dumb rednecks, tacky waitresses, sassy black social workers, brutish cops, music-club punks, etc.

Violence

Lots of bloodless fighting -- Howard uses "quack-fu" on enemies and at one point seems almost to stab a punk with an ice pick but hooks his earring instead. Reckless driving/flying and car wrecks galore. Gunfire.

Sex

Amorous couples smooch in bathing suits in some kind of a sensuous hot-tub spa complex. Assorted double entrendres include a rather notorious scene in which human heroine Beverly nearly has sex with the animal hero. She strips to skimpy lingerie and finds a condom in his wallet ("Howard!" she exclaims) and refers to Howard afterwards as her "boyfriend," causing reactions of mock-disgust. Street punks sexually harass her. Glimpse of bare breasts on a female duck, and there is a duck counterpart of Playboy Magazine. Characters accused of being perverts.

Language

"Hell," "damnit," God's name in vain. Otherwise the dialogue is heavy with euphemisms like "bull-pucky."

Consumerism

Part of a popular comic book franchise. Plus onscreen plugs for Rolling Stone magazine, MasterCard, and movie franchises such as Indiana Jones (or their duck-world equivalents).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Howard drinks beer and smokes. Raucous saloon scenes. A street-gangish character thinks he's having a drug hallucination and refers to "doing too much toot."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that though this PG film derives from a Marvel Comics superhero spoof, it's in sort of a no-duck's-land of an audience demographic, with the animal-costumed main character and childish sci-fi (and rock and roll) attitude mixed with satire, violence, and PG-13 raunch better appreciated by grownups. Howard smokes and drinks and reads the duck equivalent of pornography -- we have clues that he's sexually active with a number of lady ducks and nearly has a sex scene with the scantily-dressed human heroine. There is light swearing, and police-as-dumb-goons prevail among the stereotypes. Younger kids might be disturbed by the villain's monster mutations.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byswizz September 9, 2011

Caution on this one.

There was drinking, smoking, cussing, and sexual things also. It IS "edgier than I remember"!!
Parent of a 4 year old Written byAidens_Mommy December 21, 2010

I recommend this movie to no one.

I remembered this movie from my childhood when I saw it on tv recently and I couldn't believe my parents allowed me to watch this. Not even just a tv edite... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old February 1, 2010

read this

i saw this omg wtf this was pg in the 80,s i wonder what rated r was anyway in one seen a FEMALE duck is in the bathroom taking a bath and showed her breast in... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old July 15, 2015

Awful,dumb,lackluster comedy is extremely vulgar.

My rating:R for strong graphic racy content throughout including graphic nudity.

What's the story?

Howard T. Duck comes from a remote Earth-like world where humanoid ducks have evolved like human beings, right down to parallel waterfowl-centric culture -- a movie hit titled Breeders of the Lost Stork, for example. Accidentally dragged to Cleveland, Ohio (badly played by southern California), via the humans' deep-probing observatory laser-scope, the wisecracking flightless bird bumblingly tries to fit in with our society, becoming manager of an all-female rock band and gaining a "girlfriend" in the form of lead singer Beverly (Lea Thompson). When the same laser-probe materializes a sort of space demon that possesses a scientist (Jeffrey Jones), Howard turns unlikely hero to save Beverly and her fellow "hairless apes" of this planet from doom.

Is it any good?

Whatever appeal the original character held got left behind on the funny pages by this version produced by George Lucas, of all people. (Some commentators thought he just owed somebody a favor.). It was made with all the glitz money could buy -- as much as $50 million, by some estimates. But HOWARD THE DUCK is just one big empty bird-dropping, with obnoxious characters, tinny 1980s synth-pop music, heavy drinking/partying, death rays, monsters, repetitious and thrill-free car-chase scenes, bad-taste gags (a few revolving around the potential of human-duck lovemaking), merciless avian puns -- maybe Tim Robbins got cast solely on the basis of his last name -- and the underwhelming title character.

Howard is so clearly a little-person actor in a near-immobile duck mask and suit that one appreciates all the more how well Jim Henson's Creature Shop brought personality and movement to the equally gonzo Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a few years later. in their live-action films. Neither hitting the target for the kiddie element or grownups (as the comics character did, at least to a point), Howard the Duck laid an egg at the box office, and remains a cautionary reminder: Despite later exceptions, not all superhero-based epics are super-quality, and George Lucas could do a lot worse than Jar Jar Binks.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Howard the Duck as a satire of superhero mythologies, and how "serious" Marvel characters such as Spider-Man even made guest appearances in the printed version. Have kids read the original Howard the Duck comics (now in book form, some compilations more risqué than others) to appreciate the spoofing as it was intended. Ask them if they enjoy their comics characters served as big jokes, like the Adam West TV Batman, or completely straightfaced like the X-Men and Iron Man. Impress kids with your superhero knowledge (or just look pretty geeky) by saying that the character of She-Hulk also became something of running spoof for the Marvel writing staff.

Movie details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love comic book adventures

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate