A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that In & Out is a lightweight comedy that tackles the serious issue of sexual identity. After being publicly outed, the main character spends the rest of the film struggling with his sexuality in a comical way, but it all has real consequences -- for him, his friends, and his family. Expect plenty of teasing and occasionally derogatory humor -- though it's mainly used in an ironic way to poke fun at the teaser, and the movie's overall tone is good-natured and well-balanced. Although the movie deals somewhat with issues related to sex (both same-sex and heterosexual), there's no nudity -- the topic is mostly covered in dialogue. Language includes a memorable use of "f--k," as well as terms like "homo" and "queer." The movie's "be true to yourself" theme also includes a small subplot about eating and weight.
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What's the story?
Good-natured small town high school teacher Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) has it pretty good. He loves teaching Shakespeare and poetry, his students adore him, and he's about to marry longtime fiancée Emily (Joan Cusack). One of his former students, Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon), has even gone on to become a famous movie star. When Cameron wins an Oscar, he thanks his "gay teacher" on national television -- "outing" Howard in front of the whole world. The trouble is that Howard insists he's not gay ... or is he? He must decide before his wedding day, and it doesn't help that handsome, gay entertainment reporter Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck) has decided to stay in town to do an in-depth story on the hapless teacher.
Is it any good?
In IN & OUT, screenwriter Paul Rudnick (Addams Family Values, Jeffrey) cooks up a solid script that's both wildly funny and gently satirical. It takes on a potentially explosive topic -- the "coming out" of a gay man in a small town -- and lightens it up by looking at preconceived notions about homosexuality and turning thm upside down. Most of the stereotypical humor winds up directed right back at the clueless straight characters, and so the movie winds up happily poking fun at everyone (with the audience comfortably in on the joke).
it's virtually impossible to not root for the sweet, kind hero, appealingly played by a befuddled Kline. The rest of the cast is fine as well, with Cusack a particular standout as Howard's bride-to-be, who slowly, hilariously becomes unraveled over the course of the film (she received an Oscar nomination for her work). Director Frank Oz (Bowfinger, Death at a Funeral) keeps things bright and cheerful and prevents any meanness from creeping in.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the film approaches its potentially controversial subject matter. is it appropriate to tackle big issues via light comedy? How does that impact the take-away?
What stereotypes does the movie include? Do you find them funny? Offensive? Both? Why? Are stereotypes ever appropriate?
- In theaters: September 19, 1997
- On DVD or streaming: October 21, 1998
- Cast: Joan Cusack, Kevin Kline, Matt Dillon, Tom Selleck
- Director: Frank Oz
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content and some strong language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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