Mr. Magoo

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Mr. Magoo Movie Poster Image
Silly live-action '90s remake of cartoon; pratfalls abound.
  • PG
  • 1997
  • 88 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Some stereotypes. At the very end of there's a disclaimer informing the viewer that while much of the comedy in Mr. Magoo stemmed from his being extremely myopic, it is in no way intended to be a factual representation of the visually impaired, and blind and nearsighted people can live healthy and productive lives. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters too one-dimensional to be seen as positive role models. 

Violence

Frequent comedic pratfall and cartoonish violence, including male characters falling from far distances and landing on their groin areas, kicking, punching, use of guns and machine guns. Due to his extreme myopia, Mr. Magoo creates danger and peril for all those around him, including car chases, explosions, accidents on ski slopes, etc. 

Sex

Some sexual innuendo and entendre, including a misunderstanding in which an attractive jewel thief tells Mr. Magoo, "You know why I'm here and you know what I want," to which he mumbles a response about the behavior of "modern women." 

Language

Infrequent. "Hell." "Damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Champagne drinking at a formal party, no one acts drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mr. Magoo is a 1997 live-action adaptation of the popular cartoon series dating back to the late 1940s. Just like the cartoon, this Mr. Magoo (played to the hilt by Leslie Nielsen) creates frequent and unrelenting pratfall violence due to his extreme nearsightedness, resulting in, among other things, explosions, car chases, falls from great heights, etc.. There's also some fighting involving kicking, punching, and gunplay, as well as slapstick violence in which male characters fall from high places and injure their groin regions by straddling whichever objects they manage to land upon. There's also some mild sexual innuendo due to misunderstandings. Infrequent profanity includes "hell" and "damn." At the end of the movie there is a disclaimer informing the viewer that Mr. Magoo is a fictional character not intended to represent the visually impaired, and that many visually impaired people lead healthy and productive lives. 

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What's the story?

MR. MAGOO (Leslie Nielsen) is the distinguished and wealthy owner of a canned vegetable factory whose nearsightedness (and his refusal to believe that it is a problem) frequently and inadvertently creates havoc nearly everywhere he goes. This results in Magoo accidentally ending up with The Star of Kuristan, an extremely valuable ruby that has been stolen from the museum Magoo supports by jewel thieves Luanne LeSeur (Kelly Lynch) and Bob Morgan. After his performance in an opera, LeSeur poses as a doting reporter for an opera magazine who wants to interview Magoo; as she steals his heart the next day in an attempt to steal back the ruby, an FBI and CIA agent are both convinced that Magoo was the mastermind behind the burglary. It's up to Magoo's nephew Waldo (Matt Kesslar), with the help of Magoo's faithful dog Angus, to find a way to prove Magoo's innocence, return the Star of Kuristan to the museum, and make sure that LeSeur and the vast network of criminals working both with and against LeSeur are brought to justice. 

Is it any good?

Like so many of the 1990s real-life adaptations of classic animated series, this movie doesn't really offer anything new from the source material. With the cartoon, dating back to 1949, and its abundant slapstick and pratfall violence already in existence, this version seems superfluous. And with the cartoon itself having a very limited premise -- an elderly wealthy man whose extreme nearsightedness creates havoc everywhere he goes -- there simply isn't much room for a more contemporary humor or dry-humored self-awareness that was possible in, say, 2000's The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

On its own terms, there's enough slapstick and action (as frenzied and occasionally confusing as it is at times) to be entertaining. Leslie Nielsen certainly plays Mr. Magoo to the hilt, and many of the character's idiosyncrasies and grunted reactions to what he thinks is happening are funny. But so much of the humor derives from Magoo being near-blind -- a stereotyping that was perfectly acceptable in the mid-20th century, but not so much years later -- and that may make some families uncomfortable. At least the movie has a disclaimer at the end informing viewers that Mr. Magoo is fictional and not intended to be seen as an example of visually impaired people, and that the visually impaired can and do lead full and productive lives. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about live-action movies based on animated cartoons, such as Mr. Magoo. What would be the challenges in adapting a cartoon in which much of the comedy is derived from unrealistic situations? 

  • How was the violence intended to be used for comedic effect? 

  • Why do you think the filmmakers thought it necessary to include a disclaimer at the end of the movie separating the fiction of Mr. Magoo from the fact of the real-life visually impaired? 

Movie details

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