A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Raising Arizona is a classic 1987 Coen brothers film in which Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunt steal an infant from parents who recently gave birth to quintuplets after they learn they're unable to have children of their own. The main characters are kidnappers and convicts. A kidnapped baby is taken into perilous situations throughout, such as car chases, bank robberies, gunfights, and the like. One character is a bounty hunter of sorts who, in a dream sequence, destroys everything in his path, including bunny rabbits. A character blows up from a hand grenade. While the violence is often exaggerated for comedic or dramatic effect, there is an extended chase sequence in which gun and rifle fire is nonstop. Characters are shown bloodied and bruised in these fights. There is some profanity in nearly every scene -- including one use of "f--k" and variations on "s--t." A teen convenience store clerk looks at a pornographic magazine. There is some sex talk, often in the context of conceiving a baby.
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What's the story?
This early entry from the quirky Coen brothers concerns an ex-convict named H.I. (Nicolas Cage) who falls in love and marries a police officer named Edwina or "Ed" (Holly Hunter). After learning that they cannot have children, the couple decides to kidnap a baby boy quintuplet from wealthy furniture mogul Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson). But when Arizona posts a large reward for his baby's safe return, H.I.'s two former prison buddies (John Goodman and William Forsythe) show up unannounced, and a ruthless, baby-selling bounty hunter (Randall "Tex" Cobb) attempts to hunt him down.
Is it any good?
A traditional farce, RAISING ARIZONA offers plenty of laughs but plenty of heart, too: A central theme in the movie is how hard it is to keep a family together.
Of course, car chases, gunfights, and chaos abound, and most of the time it's in the presence of a young infant. However, none of this has any more devastating an effect than when dynamite explodes in Daffy Duck's face. Indeed, this is merely a cartoon with real actors, with the the result being hilarious but only suited for mature viewers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes this movie funny. Kidnappings and bounty hunters aren't usually treated so lightly . Why are they funny here? Can you think of other movies that make light of usually serious subject matter? Where do you draw the line between offbeat and truly tasteless territory?
How is setting -- in this case Arizona -- almost a character unto itself in this movie? How does that sense come through in the scenery, the secondary characters, the objects, and so on? How is this sense of place as character similar to that in other Coen brothers movies, such as Fargo and The Big Lebowski, for instance?
How is this movie a parody? How do you know we aren't supposed to take it seriously? Are there ever times when the characters display humanity?
- In theaters: January 1, 1987
- On DVD or streaming: August 3, 1999
- Cast: Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Nicolas Cage
- Director: Joel Coen
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language, violence.
- Last updated: May 6, 2021
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