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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie's overall message is that honesty is better than lying, and the most honest of the two characters reaps the greatest rewards. But the movie also portrays women as less-than-sympathetic (power-hungry shrews), and is very cavalier about violence, especially a major tragedy.
Positive Role Models
The main characters learn a lesson about honesty, but they are depicted as rather powerless, pushed around by their men's organization and by their wives; their main power comes from lying.
Violence & Scariness
Some strong comic/slapstick violence. A woman carries a rifle, not fired; she brings home dead ducks from a hunting excursion, and uses the gun to investigate noises. A tragedy at sea (a sunken ship) is used as a casual turn of plot, for comic reasons. A woman throws pots and pans at her husband; they crash on his head. He has a black eye.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Slightly-suggestive female nightclub act.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Casual drinking by members of men's club. Characters are comically drunk. Cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sons of the Desert is a classic Laurel & Hardy comedy from the pre-Hays Code era. Though it's from another time (1933), with some mildly troublesome material, the famous comedy duo's comic interactions and pantomime are still hilarious, and the movie is a tightly-constructed classic. It includes some strong slapstick violence. A woman carries a rifle, returns from duck hunting with dead ducks, and uses the rifle to investigate strange noises. A tragedy at sea (a sunken ship) is mentioned, and used as a comic plot turn. Characters are hit with flying pots and pans, which break over heads and leave black eyes. There's some social drinking among members of the men's club, and some men appear comically drunk. Cigarette smoking is shown, and a character gets a cigarette as a "reward" for being honest. A female nightclub act is slightly suggestive. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This brisk, lively comedy features marital power plays and actual violence in addition to slapstick violence, but strong chemistry between the legendary funny duo still generates big laughs. Directed by William A. Seiter, Sons of the Desert gets away with things other comedies of the period cannot, largely because it was made before the Hays Code was implemented, but also because it was a different time. Many of the jokes are about the inequalities of men and women in marriages, with the men pretending to have power, but actually afraid of their wives' wrath. The women characters are not painted with much sympathy -- Ollie's wife throws cookware at his head and Stan's wife brandishes a rifle and goes duck hunting -- though it's implied that everyone is happily married.
The screenplay focuses on quite a few deceptions and accidents -- in one scene, a fellow son of the desert (Charley Chase) prank-calls his sister, who turns out to be Ollie's wife -- as well as some silly wordplay ("honesty is the best politics," etc.). But the real comedy comes from the subtle, physical pantomime between the two friends. Stan is happy-go-lucky, but teetering on the point of breaking down in tears, while Ollie is like a rotund ballet dancer, a master of the slow-burn when injustice rears its head. The opening scene in which the pair tardily try to join their lodge meeting is, in particular, full of uncontrollable giggles. Overall, Sons of the Desert does not quite rise to the level of masterpiece, but it's an extremely well-constructed collection of gags by two performers at their peak.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.