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 sports comedy was once the high-scorer for swearing and raunchy humor, with obscene words that had seldom been uttered in mainstream-Hollywood entertainment. There are bare breasts in an (adulterous) bedroom sex scene, rear ends in a "mooning," and a climactic (non-explicit) male striptease. Gutter dialogue includes insults based on homosexuality, lesbianism, masturbation, etc. Practically all marriages shown are bad ones (complete with physical abuse), and divorce is a sunny escape. Sports violence centers on rink fistfights -- with other players and with fans -- many of which spill blood (but never result in serious injury). The attitude of the film toward bad sportsmanship and garbage culture is sardonic, but it can be interpreted as endorsing trashy conduct. One of the direct-to-video sequels to Slap Shot in recent years was, paradoxically, a PG-kiddie movie directed at children. Youngsters were not the intended audience of the original.
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What's the story?
In the dying Pennsylvania industrial community of Charlestown, the hard-luck local hockey team, the Chiefs, faces closure. Longtime coach Reg Dunlop (Paul Newman), hoping that wealthy buyers are interested in the franchise, uses a variety of dirty tricks against opponents to steer the motley Chiefs toward the championship and increase their market value. Result: vicious fights on the ice earn the Chiefs a reputation as bullies and brawlers. Consequently, the re-energized team becomes more popular than ever with bloodthirsty fans; only young player Braden (Michael Ontkean) refuses to "goon it up" for Dunlop, as the Chiefs head into a crucial final match against Syracuse.
Is it any good?
There's enough good-natured rowdiness and comedy (and exciting rink action) to make some viewers assume that this film glorifies acting like a hockey "goon." And when Will Ferrell takes his clothes off in another slob-sports comedy every year, one might think SLAPSHOT is just one more well-made jock farce. But the film actually has a serious point to make about the crass vulgarization of American sports (and, by extension, American life) as the Chiefs go from losers to superstars by leading the NHL in beat-downs and nasty antics against opponents. There's a price to be paid, in terms of honor and values, even if nobody in the film (and, judging by the fans, hardly anyone in the audience) gets it.
Recently, Universal Pictures has started cranking out belated direct-to-DVD sequels (speaking of dirty plays), to exploit the popularity of Slap Shot. Only the actors playing the notorious "Hanson brothers" returned, and (in a detail that this film practically predicts), the once-groundbreaking curse words, sex flirtations, and disrespect are barely shocking at all anymore.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Reg, a really mixed character, a fatherly coach who yearns for the old-fashioned "clean" hockey he played in his youth, yet who drives his team into being "goons" on the ice. He seems to take both a fatherly and a lustful interest in a young hockey wife in a crumbling marriage. Ask kids what they think of Reg and his choices. Is his wife doing the right thing by leaving him?
Discuss the way the movie depicts American sports (and society) as descending into the muck. Has the problem only gotten worse since, with scandal and shockers in boxing, baseball, and football? What about the circus-like spectacle of "pro wrestling?"
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