A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that slapstick action and potty humor are the main sources of comedy in this movie about setting an aquarium sea lion free. The adults are all buffoons, created to be laughed at by the kids in the movie and by the audience. There are pratfalls galore: characters tumble, are upended, punched, teased, doused in paint, bird poop, peanut butter, and vomit. There are farts, potty smells, references to peeing, and use of laxatives. Younger kids may be frightened when Slappy the sea lion is captured by villains, chained, and briefly buzzed with an electric prod, though he is never in real danger and never hurt. Two school bullies tease the five young heroes, but there's no actual threat there either. A few mild swear words are heard ("hell," "crap," "farthead"). It's generally preposterous silliness. One adult character smokes.
What's the story?
Five best friends -- enthusiastic nonconformists all -- meet Slappy, The Sea Lion, on a field trip. The "Stinkers," as they are called by the private school's disaster-prone headmaster (B.D. Wong) think that Slappy is unhappy in his small aquarium habitat. Remembering Free Willy, the five troublemakers determine that they, too, can make a heroic rescue and return Slappy to the ocean. Unbeknownst to them, however, an evil sea-lion-napper has other plans for the affable mammal. He, too, intends to steal Slappy, train him to do tricks, and then sell him to a circus. The rescuers confront the 'napper and the chase is on.
Is it any good?
This is silly, mindless, often crude fun for those who like their humor on the broad side. It's got clueless adults who fall and get banged up a lot, ridiculous pie-in-the-face villains, and oh-so-cutesy kids who grin a lot and utter sassy wisecracks on cue.
Combined with an abundance of fart and poop jokes, it's juvenile humor at best -- a time-waster with a few good laughs and an engaging sea lion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between make-believe live action, animated action, and real action. Are any of the crashes, falls, hits, in this movie meant to be taken seriously? How can you tell?
The Stinkers had no adults that could be counted upon to help them. Does that feel like a real situation? If you need help, who can you count on?
Slappy tells the kids that he is happiest in his home at the aquarium. There is controversy about whether or not to keep wild things in captivity for education and/or entertainment. What do you think? How could you find out more about this subject?
- In theaters: January 23, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: January 4, 2005
- Cast: B.D. Wong, Bronson Pinchot, Jennifer Coolidge
- Director: Barnet Kellman
- Studio: TriStar Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship, Ocean Creatures
- Run time: 78 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some crude behavior, mild language and slapstick violence
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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.