It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Movie Poster Image

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

(i)

 

It's a long, long, long, long classic comedy chase-epic.
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1963
  • Running Time: 154 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Most all the primary characters are motivated by greed for the buried fortune, with the possible exception of the two young wives (marriage, however, looks like a pretty dismal state of existence). Even a dogged police officer dedicated to solving the case ends up trying to steal the money. Everyone suffers in the end for their greed, though.

Violence & scariness

Lots of slapstick fighting, pratfalls, and Jonathan Winter's Hulk-like one-man demolition of an entire gas station, all in a bloodless Looney Tunes-style -- even when there are explosions and electrocutions. Much reckless driving, including a car crash that is fatal (but made into a joke, as the victim makes a big, flowery death speech and literally kicks a metal bucket).

Sexy stuff

One character complains about America's fixation on "bosoms." A dancing bikini girl. One seeming off-color joke about male impotence likely to go over kids' heads.

Language

"Hell" uttered a few times.

Consumerism

Mainly automobile brands and a gas-station chain.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some cigarette smoking and drinking. One character is perpetually drunk, and even flies a plane (tricked out with automatic liquor servers) while comically inebriated. Another character takes pills for his nervous condition.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that drinking (in the case of one character, comical nonstop drunkenness) and smoking are fairly common. There is an abundance of slapstick roughhousing, reckless driving, and cartoonish violence, with most of the cast ... in a cast by the end. A few minor off-color verbal jokes -- one is so sneaky you wonder if censors even noticed it. Main characters are driven by all-consuming greed, with only one showing conscience and disgust for the corrupting influence of the treasure hunt. You need to watch this in widescreen to get the panoramic scope of the comedy, not a full-screen cropped version. And be prepared for a long sitting.

What's the story?

On a Saturday morning on a Southern California desert road, four carloads of strangers from all walks of life see a driver -- who turns out to be a gentlemanly old bandit -- go off a cliff. Before he dies, the victim (legendary comic Jimmy Durante) confides that the $300,000 fortune he stole is all buried under "a big dubya" in a park 200 miles away. This inspires a free-for-all chase by the witnesses. The different carloads of treasure-hunters make more allies and antagonists along the way, all in their frantic, bumbling dash to claw up the money first. Meanwhile a retiring police detective (Spencer Tracey) who has been on this case for 15 years, keeps track of the growing mob and the mayhem by secret surveillance. When he finds he isn't going to get a promised pension, he tries to steal the loot as well.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Kids will laugh at It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in parts, though even the comedy gems here bump up against the cumbersome scale. Director Stanley Kramer was best known for high-minded, serious movies about racism, justice, and other social ills; doing IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD was his attempt to prove he could do comedy just as well as preach. But moreover, he wanted to show he could do one of the BIGGEST comedies conceivable, hiring enough comic heavyweights for 10 movies (many of them, like Sid Caesar and Milton Berle, enjoyed their greatest successes on TV rather than the big screen, however), and putting other illustrious screen clowns like Jerry Lewis and the Three Stooges in quick-cut cameos and bit parts. Kramer also mounted epic-level stunts, and he violated a major rule of screen farce by making the whole thing last well over two hours (it was originally shown with an intermission break).

The result is undoubtedly entertaining, sometimes screamingly funny, but also somewhat elephantine and thin in the what's-the-point? department. It's all just a big chase, the sort of thing Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton (who appears briefly) would do in the silent era as a nicely compact short subject.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the corrosive effects of avarice. It's more absurd now because the $300,000 involved -- these days -- is rather small for all the havoc it inspires. The ending of the movie seems to suggest something about the healing power of laughter (though a classic movie called Sullivan's Travels did it rather more successfully). What modern-day TV contests does this movie remind you of?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 7, 1963
DVD/Streaming release date:October 7, 2003
Cast:Dick Shawn, Mickey Rooney, Spencer Tracy
Director:Stanley Kramer
Studio:MGM/UA
Genre:Comedy
Topics:Cars and trucks
Run time:154 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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Parent of a 9 and 12 year old Written byWeedPuller March 1, 2015

Awful

Mu family gutted this out because we'd always heard about it and thought we'd educate ourselves in movie history. The sense of humor from when it was made just isn't funny anymore. The movie makes a lot of sexist assumptions, and the hostility towards the mother-in-law was offensive. (Yes, she was over-the-top bossy and intrusive, but I'd rather not have shown my kids such horrible relationships all around.) It all felt very dated and pointless. I'm glad movie-making has moved on.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 12 years old September 10, 2010

Um...it's not really worth the sit

I thought 2001: A Space Oddyssey felt long, but I probably should have spent the extra thirty seconds reading on Netflix for the length. I spread it out into two days. However, a movie like Avatar feels so short, yet is ten minutes longer. Why? Well, with the car chases, and crashes (I counted ten destroyed cars), double crosses and general mayhem, it wasn't the funniest thing in the world. I perfer silly comedies like Monty Python, and while this is one, there are more funny scenarios then jokes. And I really don't laugh at that. While it is enjoyable and down to the wire, it isn't funny. And at the end of the day, I wasn't the biggest fan.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Kid, 8 years old October 22, 2010

AWESOME!!!

LOVED IT!!!!........
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great role models

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