A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
What's the story?
MAN ON THE MOON is a biography of the bizarre and baffling comedian/performance artist Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey). Seen mostly through the eyes of his long-time manager George Shapiro (Danny DeVito), we follow the highs and lows of Kaufman's career from small comedy clubs to the early years on Saturday Night Live, achieving stardom on Taxi, and shenanigans with pro-wrestling legend Jerry Lawler. In real life as much as on stage, Kaufman was impossible to figure out. So much so that not even those closest to him believed him when he announced his lung cancer diagnosis. He died at the age of 35, leaving a powerful legacy to the next generation of comedians.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the strong language in Man on the Moon. Is it realistic? Does it matter if it is? How much is too much in movies, TV, and music?
Had you heard of Andy Kaufman before you saw this movie? What did you think of his work? How might he have influenced today's comedians and social-media personalities who pull stunts and play practical jokes?
Do you think Andy Kaufman was an admirable person? Why or why not?
- In theaters: December 22, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: May 30, 2000
- Cast: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Paul Giamatti, Courtney Love
- Director: Milos Forman
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: Language and brief sexuality/nudity.
- Awards/Honors: Golden Globe
- Last updated: December 20, 2019
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