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Punch Drunk Love
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 movie has a good deal of mature material, including very strong language, sexual references and situations including a call to a telephone sex line, and violence. Parents of Adam Sandler fans should know that this is very different from his other movies and should exercise caution in allowing teenagers to see it.
What's the story?
Barry (Adam Sandler), the boss of a business that sells novelty toilet plungers whose affable exterior hides enormous fear and fury. Through the course of the movie, Barry unstops his clogged up feelings, charts a course between the sacred and the profane, and reaches toward love and harmony. Barry's emotional journey begins when he confides to his brother-in-law, and calls a 900 number out of loneliness. Fascinated by a frequent flyer mile program, he buys hundreds of boxes of chocolate pudding -- he's not aware of it yet, but he yearns to go somewhere. When he meets Lena (Emily Watson), he feels that she is what he is longing for. He tries to use his absurd pudding miles to follow her to Hawaii, and when that does not work, he pays for a ticket. In an exotic natural location away from home, the lovers tell each other the truth and find one another. Yet, complications arise when part of Barry's earlier journey comes back to haunt him.
Is it any good?
Writer-director P.T. Anderson ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia") has created a highly original and intelligent movie. While the performance isn't really a stretch for comedian Sandler, he deserves a lot of credit for playing the straight man, without the distance and comfort (and hostility) of laugh lines. Watson is luminous, if enigmatic, as the warm-hearted girl who is a little surprised at how drawn she is to Barry. Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman is outstanding as a would-be extortionist.
Audiences are likely to feel a bit punch drunk themselves as they try to make sense of this odd romantic journey with its offbeat dualities, combining extremes of chaos and harmony and love and anger, but this is undeniably an arresting and challenging film. Those expecting an Adam Sandler movie or a romantic comedy will be disappointed, but those who are open to something a little twisted and messy will find it very rewarding.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the use of symbols in the movie. Why is the word "love" spelled out in the abrasions on Barry's knuckles? Compare that to Robert Mitchum's famous portrayal of a con man posing as a preacher in "Night of the Hunter," with "love" tattooed across the knuckles of one hand and "hate" tattooed across the other.
- In theaters: October 25, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: June 24, 2003
- Cast: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman
- Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Romance
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, sexual references, and language
- Last updated: May 27, 2010
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.