Son in Law

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Son in Law Movie Poster Image
Dated '90s Pauly Shore comedy; frequent sexual references.
  • PG-13
  • 1993
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Most of the characters learn to tolerate, and even appreciate, the differences between their very different backgrounds.

Positive Role Models & Representations

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

Violence

Characters throw punches on two occasions; a bloody nose in one scene as a result. 

Sex

Brief male nudity, buttocks. Two characters have their drinks spiked with pills and are left semi-clothed in a barn together to look like they had sex while drunk. Frequent references to sex. An attractive college freshman is described by the lead character as "USDA prime teriyaki." After walking in on the scantily-clad mother of his love interest, the lead character tells the mom "you're giving me a semi." Reference to parents "gettin' busy." The morning after a passionate kiss that is interrupted and cut short, the lead character tells his love interest that he used her little brother's latest issue of Playboy to ensure "the poisons have left the building." Jokes about the effects of steroids on male genitalia. Breasts are called "cones." A tween boy brags about having a subscription to Playboy. A teen girl sneaks out of her house to meet up with her boyfriend and kiss. Upon moving into her dorm room, a girl finds out her roommate is a lesbian when she starts making out with her girlfriend; the males of her family act like they are aroused by it. 

Language

 "A--hole," "son of a bitch," "s--t," "d--k," "damn," "hell." Various euphemisms for sex and masturbation. A teen boy is shown making a masturbatory gesture with his hand while the school principal gives a corny graduation speech. Female breasts are called "cones."

Consumerism

Coors Beer and Coca-Cola products prominently featured. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters dump pills into the beers of a man and a woman during a bachelor party, causing them both to blackout. Underage drinking in a college dorm building. Characters chew tobacco and spit the juice on the ground. When the lead character is asked how he got his name, Crash, he answers that it was a nickname bestowed upon him when he was a college freshman because that was how he made it home from parties. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Son in Law is a 1993 movie in which Pauly Shore plays a California dude trying to fit in with a rural South Dakota farm family in order to woo his love interest. There are frequent euphemisms for sex, genitalia, and masturbation. During a bachelor party, two characters have their beers spiked with pills, which causes them to blackout and wake up semi-clothed and lying close to each other. There is brief male nudity (buttocks). A college freshman girl is objectified by the lead character as "USDA prime teriyaki." During a Halloween party in a college dorm building, a white character wears facepaint underneath warpaint to look like a Native American. There is underage drinking in the college dorm building. Profanity includes "a--hole," "son of a bitch," "s--t," "d--k," "damn," and "hell."

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What's the story?

In SON IN LAW, after graduating at the top of her class in her South Dakota high school, Becca (Carla Gugino) decides to attend a university in Southern California, much to the dismay of her possessive boyfriend, Travis. As she finds it difficult to adjust to college and the culture of her new surroundings, Becca nearly goes home, but has her mind changed by the Resident Advisor of her dorm building, a seemingly spaced-out guy named Crash (Pauly Shore). He takes her to Venice Beach, helps her to lose her Midwestern fashion sense for more flashy clothing, a new hairstyle, and a tattoo on her ankle. When it's time for Thanksgiving break, Becca learns that Crash has nowhere to go, so she brings Crash with her back to South Dakota. Upon arriving, her family is strongly put off by Crash's bizarre West Coast mannerisms and slang. Their low opinion of him doesn't improve when, during a dinner in a country club, Travis proposes marriage to Becca, but is saved by Crash when he claims to have proposed to Becca two weeks' prior, and are now engaged. Continuing the deception, Crash even goes so far as to say that he wants to be a farmer, and must learn to get up at 5AM and work the land, even as he's laughed at the entire time by Becca's family and the other farmhand. As he does this, he gradually begins to win the family over. However, things come to a head when Travis, under the guise of throwing a "bachelor party" for Crash, spikes the drinks of Crash and Tracy (Tiffani Thiessen), an old friend of Becca's from school, in order to make it look like they slept together in a barn. Now, Crash must prove that he was set up, and that he actually loves Becca and has grown to love life on the farm. 

Is it any good?

While as firmly dated in the 1990s as a Spin Doctors song, this movie is not without some charm. Pauly Shore basically plays the over-the-top California dude persona that brought him some fleeting success in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and makes full use of a whole slew of catchphrases, euphemisms, and stretching out words and adding strange emphases on syllables. It's easy to understand the appeal of '90s nostalgia, a time when flannel, grunge, and ludicrous movies like these ruled youth culture. Son in Law is as good a yardstick as any to measure both the culture's innocence and ignorance between then and now. 

Still, scenes in which white kids darken their skin to resemble Native Americans at a Halloween party are enough to, as Shore might have said, harsh the mellow of anyone trying to get a little too nostalgic for the 1990s. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about comedies in which humor is derived from characters being out of their element. How does the use of "opposites" create both tension and humor? What are some other examples beside Son in Law of movies with similar conflicts? 

  • In what ways does the humor seem dated, either because of the content or because of the slang terms used? 

  • What are some other examples of actors with recognizable personas who often play variations of these personas in their movies? 

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love the '90s

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