By Sandie Angulo Chen,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Risque moments in familiar but funny theater comedy.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Promotes honest and open communication between romantic partners, empathy and teamwork. Also has messages about learning from repeated mistakes, the importance of humility, and trusting others instead of jumping to conclusions. Argues that people should stop being big-city elitists who think the rest of the country isn't cultured or properly introduced to the arts.
Positive Role Models
Despite their flaws, Sandrene and Tucker are loyal to each other and their artistic vision. They're committed to their theater company and want everyone to enjoy live theater as much as they do. On the flip side, they're self-absorbed, and Tucker in particular is prejudiced against the North Dakotans. The entire company works hard, despite difficult conditions, for a chance of winning the competition. They grow as a team.
A little representation in the supporting cast: Two company members are Black, and two characters are gay; the local precinct has a Black police officer. One character is Black and blind. The town's "mad conservative" culture is referenced when a gay Black character gets upset at his White boyfriend for publicly outing them. Slightly more focus on LGBTQ+ issues than on race.
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Violence & Scariness
An elderly woman drops dead during the immersive theater performance. There's a possibly disturbing scene (although it's played for laughs) of vegans being forced to eat bison jerky. Yorick's arousal could be construed as sexual harassment.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Suggestive scenes include a reference to oral sex in a character's stand-up comedy routine and a troupe member getting visibly aroused (in one shot, his pants are tented) while watching another actor perform (she takes off her top, but her breasts are obscured) or participating in a team-building massage. It's depicted as funny rather than creepy, but it's still disturbing. Similarly, former company actors remind Tucker that he forced them to have "unsimulated sex" in a scene. Two different couples hug and kiss.
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"F--king" (sexual definition), "screw you," "s--t," "damn," "suck," and more. Derogatory comments for small-town folks: "yokels," "bumpkins," "happy little hayseeds."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The entire company gets drunk on homemade moonshine. Adults also drink at meals, pubs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tankhouse is a fish-out-of-water comedy about a couple who get kicked out of the New York City theater scene and move to Fargo to try to take over a local historic theater. Reminiscent of both Waiting for Guffman and Schitt's Creek, it has some suggestive material, including an obscured shot of a woman taking off her top during a monologue and occasional kisses/embraces between couples. Someone performs a stand-up routine that references oral sex, and a character gets visibly aroused in two quick scenes (but the moment, which could be construed as harassment, is played for laughs). Salty language includes "f--king," "s--t," "damn," "screw you," "d--k," and more. The ensemble includes a few diverse characters (two gay characters and two Black characters, one of whom is blind) and an outspoken feminist. Like similar movies and shows, it has clear messages about empathy, teamwork, and not judging others based on their background or hometown.
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What's the Story?
In TANKHOUSE, professional and romantic partners Tucker (Stephen Friedrich) and Sandrene (Tara Holt) run a small New York City theater troupe until an audience member's death forces them out of the company and to Sandrene's hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. The town is hosting a theater competition, the winner of which will be allowed to take over the Fargo theater. Believing that their superior city training will make them shoo-ins, the couple set out to find local actors (or, frankly, just interested parties) to audition for their fledgling company of immersive theater actors. Their main competition is led by Sandrene's former high school drama teacher (Richard Kind) and some of his alumni. While Sandrene (formerly Sandy) is used to Fargo, Tucker considers everyone beneath him and gets jealous of Sandrene's connections -- and her mainstream aspirations.
Is It Any Good?
This familiar "city slickers in the country" comedy works best when it's poking fun at overly serious artists who think there's no place worth living but New York City. Writer-director Noam Tomaschoff's feature-length debut is part send-up and part tribute to the sort of theater performers who think only big-city actors are worthy of leading a theater troupe. Tucker and Sandrene are like evangelical theater directors who believe they're spreading the good news of their sophisticated, immersive acting techniques with the pitiable unbelievers of Fargo. Of course, what Tankhouse proves is that every city and town has drama teachers and willing performers.
Tankhouse is a bit like the movie Camp -- i.e., if you need an explanation of what the "Modern Major General"-Off is about, this probably isn't the movie for you. But audiences who do know that the blistering pace of the iconic Gilbert and Sullivan song makes it ideal for the musical theater version of a rap battle will probably laugh at the right scenes. Some of the jokes don't land: The ongoing gag about Yorick's (Joe Adler) arousal during hands-on team-building or partial nudity during a performance borders on creepy or harassment, rather than humor. The cringe-inducing moments can range from silly to drama student in-jokes to fairly crude bits. But the acting ensemble, which includes Kind, Christopher Lloyd (as Sandrene and Tucker's New York mentor), and a host of younger actors, has enough camaraderie to pull off the script's mission. Bottom line? There's nothing original about the movie's plot line, but the actors manage to elicit enough laughs to make it a serviceable comedy.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Tankhouse's messages on snobbishness and elitism. What do Sandrene and Tucker learn from being in Fargo?
What do you think about the representation in the movie? Should Brady have outed his relationship with Jack without his consent? Why is that a sensitive subject?
What makes "fish out of water" or "city mouse/country mouse" stories compelling? How does Tankhouse compare to similar movies like Waiting for Guffman or the show Schitt's Creek?
How does the story show the importance of communication, empathy, and teamwork?
- In theaters: May 13, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: May 13, 2022
- Cast: Tara Holt, Stephen Friedrich, Richard Kind
- Director: Noam Tomaschoff
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Communication, Empathy, Teamwork
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexual references
- Last updated: April 4, 2023
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.
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