A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the movie has very strong language for a PG, including many words they would not want their children to use. Joe smokes a cigar as an emblem of machismo. Characters drink and there is a scene in a bar. The entire theme of fighting back is very poorly handled. And some kids will be upset by the neglect of Joe's child.
What's the story?
Joe (Tim Allen) is slapped in the face by a bully (Patrick Warburton) in an altercation at the parking lot at work while his daughter, who has come with him for "Take Your Daughter to Work Day," looks on. She sees his humiliation afterward -- he's so depressed that he sits at home in his bloody shirt for three days, until Meg (Julie Bowen), the office "wellness" coordinator, comes over and asks him what he wants. Joe decides to challenge the bully to a rematch. As soon as word gets out, he is suddenly Mr. Popularity around the office. So, all he has to do is spend three weeks taking fighting lessons from a former star of low-budget action movies, and he'll be all set.
Is it any good?
The dubious message of this feeble comedy is that being popular and being willing and able to beat someone up are what really matter. On the way to the final confrontation there is a lot of comic violence (including two below-the-belt injuries that are supposed to be funny). Despite his commitment to his daughter, Joe seems completely insensitive to the impact of his actions on her. And there is also something very icky about the way that Joe's ex-wife becomes attracted to him again when she sees how newly tough he is, so she puts on a sexy red teddy and tries to sneak into his house to get back together with him. To make it worse, it is their daughter who stops her, in a strange scene that makes it clear that any parenting in that relationship is going to the mother, not from the mother.
Attractive and talented performers are completely wasted in this movie. Despite a couple of nice moments between Meg and Joe, and the use of the truly magnificent Eva Cassidy song "Songbird," it is an almost unalloyed disappointment.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: December 21, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: August 20, 2002
- Cast: Hayden Panettiere, Julie Bowen, Tim Allen
- Director: John Pasquin
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language, thematic elements and some mild violence
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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