A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie, based on an 18th-century book of tall tales and directed by Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam, has some fairly edgy content. Though it's steeped heavily in fantasy, there are still graphic scenes of battle with many explosions, sporadic beheadings and near executions, scenes of a harem with some shots of naked women, and a creepy Angel of Death.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN starts in a fictional war-torn town during "The Age of Reason," and the screenplay delivers on its promise to examine the sometimes conflicting roles of fact and fantasy. As shells fall around them, the townspeople are distracted by a comedy troupe acting out the adventures of the big-nosed Baron, only to have the real Baron (John Neville) walk on stage and take up the narrative. Accompanied by little Sally Salt (a very young Sarah Polley) Baron Munchausen must reunite with his retinue, which includes Berthold (Monty Python colleague Eric Idle) in order to save the desperate town. But distractions and obstacles make the challenge extraordinarily difficult.
Is it any good?
The movie drew headlines when it was released in 1989 at almost twice its original budget, but director Terry Gilliam deserves credit for creating a visually fantastic film. While a few special effects fall flat, most are far ahead of their time, and small roles by Robin Williams and Uma Thurman (not to mention Sting) add to the whimsical quality of the film. It works well as a grown-up allegory of the nature of war and fear, and was nominated for a number of Academy Awards for costumes, makeup, and visual effects.
However, the movie is saddled with very slow pacing and scenes that seem too long by half. After somewhat confusing efforts to rescue the first two of Baron's four friends, it comes as a great relief that the remaining two can be found together, signaling that the plot can move forward again. It's a conundrum; the special effects are enticing, but the movie plods under its detail.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the nature of war as it's depicted here. Vulcan treasures his nuclear weapon because it can cause destruction while he's comfortably far away; how has that attitude changed modern warfare? How powerful a weapon is fear, as you see Horatio Jackson warning his citizens not to open the town gates? In what other movies and books can you find the Angel of Death?
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