L.A. Story

Movie review by
Angela Tiene, Common Sense Media
L.A. Story Movie Poster Image
Sweet and quirky, but only L.A. kids will get the joke.
  • PG-13
  • 1991
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Teens might enjoy the depiction of Los Angeles as a place where there are no rules, and where adults can always redefine themselves. But they’ll also take away the message that sometimes the easy pleasures in life aren’t always the most satisfying: Harris finds happiness not from a superficial social life or a casual sexual relationship, but from finding a true companion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Harris is a fun-loving, good person who’s willing to chuckle at life’s absurdities, and even revel in them. By the movie’s end, he’s also learned to strive for what will truly make him happy, not just keep him entertained. Sara is a strong female character who doesn’t bow to convention; she’s quirky and odd, and makes no apologies for it. Many supportive characters are frivolous or superficial, but mostly well-intentioned.


Some fantasy violence and arguing. “Road rage” is played for laughs when everyone on the freeway pulls out a gun and starts shooting, though no one is harmed. There’s some verbal abuse and shoving during a workplace argument.


Sex is addressed in a lighthearted way, and as a positive part of adult relationships. One character is cheating on her boyfriend, another couple has an open relationship. Three sex scenes with very little shown contrast casual sex vs. making love; some passionate kissing, comic sex noises, a hand on a clothed breast, and post-sex bed scenes. The only nudity is a very brief shot of a topless woman in a dressing room.


The word “f--k” and "s--t" are both used once.


American Airlines gets a brief logo shot.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults are shown drinking responsibly at social engagements. One minor character nurses a hangover after overindulging the night before.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this offbeat comedy is not just a love story, but also a tribute to Los Angeles. Steve Martin’s goofy antics and witty dialogue will keep teens entertained, but the early-'90s humor feels a little dated, and the L.A. in-jokes might be lost on teens unfamiliar with Los Angeles lore. The characters navigate the complexities of casual sex and meaningful relationships in a whimsical yet loving manner that older kids and teens will understand. There's also some profanity, fantasy violence, and a brief shot of a topless woman.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAlex2539001 November 8, 2018

Sweet and funny

If you like Steve Martin, I think this is one of his better works. And they messed up in the review above. I don't live in L.A. and never have so the revi... Continue reading
Parent of a 11, 14, and 17-year-old Written byaec3 May 15, 2011
Somebody reallly messed up!!!!! The review says there is NO nudity!!! OH YES THERE IS!!! Very early on in the movie full close up of bare breast are seen! M... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Harris K. Telemacher (Steve Martin) is a Los Angeles weatherman who’s deeply dissatisfied with his life. He spends the movie charting a new direction, both personally and professionally, against the backdrop of “anything goes” Los Angeles in the early '90s. L.A.’s own flavor of magical realism, in the form of an advice-dispensing freeway sign, guides him through three romantic relationships, from controlling, image-conscious Trudi (Marilu Henner) to frisky, fun SandEe (Sarah Jessica Parker, before Sex and the City), to quirky London journalist Sara (Victoria Tennant, Martin’s real-life wife at the time). Written by Martin, the movie is both a love story and an homage to Los Angeles.

Is it any good?

The movie is a sweet and poignant love story, both between Harris and Sara and Steve Martin and Los Angeles. Martin’s deftly written script simultaneously celebrates and pokes fun at a city that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Many jabs are related to its residents’ love affair with cars: Harris drives to his best friend’s house, though it’s just two doors down, and his shortcut to work involves barreling through backyards and down staircases (what Angeleno doesn’t have a secret detour to dodge traffic?). And the film’s voice of wisdom, who helps Harris change his life? A freeway sign.

While kids will find Martin’s oddball antics entertaining, some of the inside jokes about L.A. seem a bit dated; for example, there’s a scene ridiculing people with “car phones” (remember those?). But kids who’ve spent any time in Los Angeles (or whose parents have) will get the joke when characters flock to a hot new restaurant, L’Idiot, and clamor for miniscule portions and abusive service.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how to make choices that are best for you, not someone else.

  • What qualities are most important in a romantic relationship?

  • What makes your town or city special to you? How is where you live different from Los Angeles, or other places you’ve read about or visited?

Movie details

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