A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, although the rowdy behavior depicted seems tame by modern standards, the adult subject matter and bawdy humor are not suitable for younger kids. Officers are seen drinking home brew made from medicinal alcohol. Crewmembers use telescopes to spy on showering nurses at a nearby hospital. Ensign Pulver lures a nurse to his quarters with the intention of getting her drunk and seducing her.
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What's the story?
In the waning days of World War II, Lieutenant Doug Roberts (Henry Fonda) worries that the war is passing him by. He yearns for duty more significant than that of supervising the daily operations of a cargo transport ship in the South Pacific. Roberts doesn't realize how much he means to his crew, who appreciate that he's always ready to stand up for them against the ship's tyrannical, career-minded captain (James Cagney). In fact, Roberts is idolized by the green junior officer who shares his quarters, Ensign Pulver (Jack Lemmon). When it becomes necessary to strike a bargain with the Captain for the crew's sake, Roberts almost gives up his dream -- although in the end his request for transfer to active duty is granted. In his wake, Roberts leaves behind a crew of men bonded together in a way that would not have been possible without him.
Is it any good?
Mister Roberts occasionally feels stiff and constrained, though the superb cast works to keep things lively. The inactive side of America's fighting force is spotlighted in this movie, which stars Henry Fonda as a World War II naval officer trying to keep up the morale of his bored, overworked cargo ship crew. Mister Roberts survives the test of time by concentrating on characters rather than action. Though tame compared with the stories of real-life enlisted men, the movie isn't exactly politically correct. One of its most memorable characters, Ensign Pulver (an Oscar-winning performance by Jack Lemmon), is a coward who schemes to seduce a visiting nurse with homemade Scotch. But he's an immature young man who grows considerably by the end of the movie.
Fonda, who won a Tony award for playing Roberts on Broadway, was never better than he is here, bringing heart and strength to the title role. Lemmon, Cagney, and William Powell (in his final screen role as the ship's philosophical doctor) give some of the strongest performances of their respective careers. As with most of the greatest comedies, this one has a serious side. The ending, with its one-two punch combining tragic news with a great belly laugh, is one that viewers won't soon forget. The adult subject matter and humor will appeal mainly to teens and parents.
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