A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Special Correspondents is a Netflix original film with drug use, adultery, guns, and profanity. It's a send-up of hard-boiled macho media men who drink and cover wars but aren't really all that brave. The cynicism of politics, journalism, and the corporate media are displayed against a decent guy's basic goodness. Expect to see cocaine use and drinking and to hear "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," and "balls." Unlikely to interest or engage most teens.
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What's the story?
"Special" is defined as "better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual." It's the "otherwise different from what is usual" that applies to the "special" in SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS. Frank (Eric Bana) is a hack New York radio journalist. Ian (Ricky Gervais) is a broadcast techie. Together they are sent to cover an imminent rebellion in Ecuador, which is a big deal for a small, local station. After the decent but hopelessly uncool Ian mistakenly tosses the tickets, passports, and funds into a garbage truck, it's either return from the airport to the radio station and suffer certain humiliation or hole up in some friends' New York restaurant and send fake radio bulletins on the war, complete with jungle, explosion, and enemy-fire sound effects. They choose the latter. This leads to the necessity for many other lies, most audaciously one about their kidnapping by rebel forces. Ian's wife (Vera Farmiga) left him after cheating on him with Frank on the eve of their departure. At the news of his capture, she goes on a talk show self-promotion tour that results in a record contract and a hit song about raising ransom money for heroes. It does well on iTunes. Eventually, the duo must smuggle themselves into Ecuador to extricate themselves from the mess. Drug dealers capture them for real this time, and their escape requires lots of shooting.
Is it any good?
Given writer/director Gervais' comic gifts, this mildly entertaining comedy seems a wasted opportunity to say more, and be funnier about, the state of the news media and human nature in general. As Ian, a self-doubting radio technician, Gervais seems to be taking pains to tamp down his own intrinsic color as a performer. You can sense the effort that being meek and dull takes for Gervais, so it's difficult to forget that, at all times, Ian feels like A Performance. The story is sweet -- a nice guy finishes first this time -- and there are some funny, almost cerebral moments, as when the two enter a seedy dive and hear unpleasant piano sounds. This leads Ian to whine, "Oh, no, jazz," only to find that a man is having his head beaten against a piano keyboard.
There's some significant implausibility to overcome as well. In the effort to fake broadcasts that sound as if they're coming from Ecuador, Ian and Frank project jungle sounds even though they're supposed to be reporting from Quito, a big city. No one at the radio station notices. Overall, an uneven satire that is unlikely to engage most teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether this is an accurate depiction of journalism or not. How do you know?
What does this movie try to say about the warring messages of substance vs. style in journalism?
The news reports here were faked. One invented scoop was taken as fact by other networks and news organizations. How do you judge for yourself whether a news report is believable?
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