The African Queen

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The African Queen Movie Poster Image
Hepburn and Bogart shine in this odd couple adventure.
  • NR
  • 1952
  • 105 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive messages

Love-story message of a greatest possible "opposites attract" variety, with staid, spinsterish Rose falling in love with ill-mannered, hard-drinking Charlie, and the two learning to appreciate and respect each other. Secondary theme about striving against near-impossible odds to fight tyrannical enemies.

Positive role models & representations

Both Charlie and Rose are flawed but heroic characters. Charlie drinks too much and is generally uncouth; Rose is a little snobbish, but by the end they've proven their worth and thoroughly won each other over. Rose and her brother are brittle Methodist missionaries, fish-out-of-water puritans in the primitive African jungles. The script stops short of depicting them and their Bible lessons as intrusive and ineffective, but slovenly Charlie seems better adapted to the environment and culture. Black tribal Africans are mostly passive background characters, though at least not made comical.

Violence

A hail of gunfire. German soldiers bully people (one dies offscreen) and burn a grass-hut village. A threatened execution by hanging. Icky scene of Charlie plagued by blood-sucking leeches. Talk of torpedoes and bomb-building.

Sex

Very mild suggestion that Charlie and Rose sleep together. Rose seems to be naked when bathing in the river (but actually she's covered with a slip).

Language
Consumerism

A novel of the same name by C.S. Forester exists but has been completely overshadowed by the movie adaptation.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Charlie smokes cigars and drinks gin, finally to the point of drunkenness. Rose disapproves of alcohol, sending his stash into the river.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this WWI romantic comedy-adventure has a troubling threat of death-by-execution for the main characters. There is light violence in the form of gunfire and dangerous river rapids. Squeamish moments involve blood-sucking leeches and, to a lesser extent, a painful mosquito swarm. As with most old-school movies set in Africa, black natives are unimportant compared to the white-European folk -- but at least they aren't treated with contempt or mockery.

User Reviews

Parent of a 13 year old Written byTsion January 25, 2009

An Engaging, Well-Acted, But Overlong Film...

THE AFRICAN QUEEN really has nothing that bad in it, as much as I recall. I saw it for the first time about three weeks ago and was interested in what COMMONSE... Continue reading
Parent Written bySinfoniarc August 5, 2010

One Of Bogie's Best But Better For Older Kids

Arguably one of John Huston's finest films ever made and until The Last King of Scotland was released (several years ago), it was the last movie filmed in... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byFabmax November 26, 2010

Having an adventure on the African Queen

I love it! It has adventure, romance, comedy , and it stars two of the greatest stars of all time, Hepburn, and Bogart. Overall, I'd say that this movi... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bydwaltz November 29, 2010

Opposites Attract, slowly but surely!

How they learn to love each other is very interesting, perhaps even charming, to watch.

What's the story?

Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) and her brother Samuel are English missionaries in 1914 German East Africa. Their rare contact with the outside world is through Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart), who delivers their mail on his steam-powered boat, the African Queen. When Samuel is killed in a German attack, Charlie takes Rose with him. At first, they are stiffly polite to each other. Then, Rose decides that they must use their explosives to blow up the powerful German gunboat, the Louisa. Charlie thinks she's crazy and they clash. He steers into the rapids to show her how dangerous the river is, but she's thrilled by the experience. Charmed by her enthusiasm and praise, Charlie still insists that they can't possibly attack the Louisa, and yet she persists. Will the pair try to destroy the German boat, and if so, will they survive the dangerous mission? And will their attraction and admiration for one another continue to grow?

Is it any good?

THE AFRICAN QUEEN is one of the finest and most satisfying of the "odd couple takes a trip together" genre. Rose and Charlie are opposites, and yet they are perfectly suited to each other. Ultimately, Rose is not comfortable "rising above" nature, and indeed grows to love it, as she gives up some of the strictures of civilization and appreciates the beauty and "stimulation" of the natural world. Charlie learns to appreciate some of the beauties of civilization; to take the challenge and the responsibility of participating in the fight against the Germans, to have a relationship of trust and tenderness.

Humphrey Bogart won a well-deserved Oscar for this performance. Katharine Hepburn, who was also nominated, said that her performance was based on director John Huston's suggestion that she play Rose as Eleanor Roosevelt. Compare this performance to her appearance in Pat and Mike a year later, in which she played a world-class athlete. The movie is based on a novel of the same name by C.S. Forester, but the romance was added by screenwriters James Agee and John Huston.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the reason that German troops were in Africa in the 1900s.

  • Families can also talk about what makes a compelling love story. Is the "opposites attract" premise just more fun? Do you prefer stories of first love or is it more compelling with more mature characters?

Movie details

For kids who love armchair travel and adventure

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