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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
It's impossible to know the real Andy Kaufman because as he himself said, "There is no real Andy Kaufman." Messages about Kaufman as an artist are mixed; we see him both compromising his integrity and ferociously refusing to compromise at other times. His life was cut short by illness, so how his art might have evolved over a full career can never be known.
Positive Role Models
Nothing Andy Kaufman did or said could be believed. Early on he says his motivation is to be the most famous man in the world, but it soon becomes clear that his only motivation in performing was to provoke a reaction from the audience, and whether it was a good or bad reaction made no difference to Kaufman. He took everything he did farther than was comfortable. Kaufman inspired both his writing partner and his manager to loyally support him throughout his short professional career. Girlfriend Lynne was loyal and supportive, but no doormat. She was fully capable of standing up to and holding her own with, Kaufman.
Violence & Scariness
Slapping, throwing punches, throwing chairs that damage property, and professional-wresting-type violence both in the ring and during publicity stunts. Some mild gore and fake blood from a charlatan surgeon who pretends to remove internal organs from people using only his hands; then we see how he fakes it. A funeral scene features an open casket tilted up at an incline and facing the congregation.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A scene in a brothel where one man and two female prostitutes roughhouse in bed. The man's wearing underwear and the women are topless; one woman's breasts are clearly but briefly seen. They talk in bed while in a simulated sex pose. A few kisses, one in bed with one person under the covers and the other over the covers. Vegas-showgirl-type dancers perform with pasties on their breasts.
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"S--t," "f--k," "a--hole," and "bulls--t."
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Products & Purchases
Parting gifts for a TV show guest include Turtle Wax and a gift certificate to Red Lobster. Haagen Dazs ice cream mentioned. A Bonus Feature on the DVD about the soundtrack just invites viewers to purchase the soundtrack and shows two full-length music videos by R.E.M., the band who wrote the title song and the soundtrack.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Many settings take place in nightclubs with ambient drinking and smoking. Kaufman's alter-ego character Tony Clifton almost always has a cigarette in his hand. Kaufman says he doesn't do drugs and refuses to perform a sketch that requires him to "play stoned."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Man on the Moon is a biopic about the comedian/performance artist Andy Kaufman, who rose to fame playing a popular sitcom character on Taxi in the late '70s. Strong language includes "s--t" and "f--k." Rare violence includes slapping, punching, and throwing furniture as well as some professional wrestling matches. There's mild gore in one scene when a fake surgeon pretends to remove people's innards using only his hands; how he fakes it is shown. One scene takes place in a brothel and shows female-frontal nudity briefly as well as a simulated sex position. Many scenes in nightclubs show ambient drinking and smoking. One character always has a cigarette in his hand. There's sadness while Kaufman fights lung cancer and eventually dies at the age of 35. His funeral scene features an open casket. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Understanding how this movie manages to be pretty entertaining is almost as impossible as understanding Andy Kaufman himself. Viewers certainly won't finish Man on the Moon feeling like now they know Andy Kaufman or "get" why he did what he did. But director Milos Forman carries Kaufman's legacy forward by provoking the reactions Kaufman himself did with his performances. Sometimes both the artist and the movie provoke laughter, sometimes discomfort, sometimes anger, and lots of times puzzlement. All Kaufman wanted out of performing, it seems, was to get some kind, any kind, of reaction from his audience.
It wasn't a box-office success when it was originally released in 1999. The timing and order of some of the events shown is confusing, and it's sometimes frustrating to feel like you're not getting to know the "real" Andy Kaufman. But as he himself said, "There is no real Andy Kaufman." It's really Carrey's wonderful performance and those from the deep field of supporting players that make it worthwhile viewing. Mature teens who can handle the strong language and brief, sexual nudity may be especially interested in seeing a performer who really paved the way for a lot of modern comedy, especially from social-media personalities that celebrate the awkward, get viewers worked up, and as often as not leave them shaking their heads in bafflement.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.