A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this spoof/critique of action films has itself an excessive amount of violence, explosions, and killings. While kids may love this, the sheer number of people who are killed or plotted to be killed (at least 15) make it too much for younger kids. Jack's son is killed and daughter kidnapped, and Danny nearly dies as well. Jack is shot and nearly dies, bubbling up blood from his mouth. Also, several characters smoke.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
In LAST ACTION HERO, Danny (Austin O'Brien) is the lonely child of a single mom (Mercedes Ruehl) who would rather live in the fantasy world of action movies about fictional cop Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger) than in the real world of lonely nights, homework, and trying to make friends. When movie projectionist Frank (a great cameo by legend Art Carney) gives Danny a magic ticket, suddenly Danny isn't watching the new Jack Slater movie -- he's in the car with Jack as he shoots at the bad guys. As Jack's partner, Danny tells him about the conventions of the genre -- the cheesy catch phrases and how bad-guy henchman Benedict (Charles Dance) really feels about his boss. When Benedict gets a hold of the magic ticket and starts wreaking havoc in the real world, Jack and Danny must get back to prevent carnage at the world premiere of the film.
Is it any good?
Settle in for a long viewing experience that's less an action movie proper than a send-up of the action movie genre. You get the feeling that this film is Schwarzenegger's fantasy: Sick of his role as an action hero and his films' predictable plots, the star now skewers what made him famous. He also lampoons an action hero's debonair image: Divorced Jack lives in a furnitureless apartment overlooking a freeway. He's just as lonely as Danny and even tells Danny not to idolize him the way he does -- a great, down-to-earth message for celeb-obsessed kids.
The other fun thing about Last Action Hero is all the movie references. Watch for shout-outs to Terminator, Basic Instinct, and other genre-defining movies -- How many can you spot? But playing "spot the reference" won't stop viewers from getting bored with the long running time. And the two-movies-in-one format is unwieldy at times. It gets too caught up with catering to action-movie fans before it gets to the interesting stuff -- like how an action star would adjust to the real world. For instance, Jack is thrilled to just talk to a woman he meets instead of doing what an action hero would do: ogle her, hit on her, or ignore her. Fewer killings and more thoughtful moments like this would have made Last Action Hero a more well-rounded movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the critique this film makes of action films. List some of the differences between the movie world and the real world. What does this film tell you about the world the movie industry creates? How realistic is it? At times, do you believe that the movie world is an accurate depiction of the real world? Why? When?