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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Beach Bum is a comedy by Harmony Korine, who also directed the raunchy, over-the-top Spring Breakers. It focuses on a drug-addled, drunk philanderer named Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) who earns prestige and profit from his self-absorbed misdeeds. Every kind of parental concern is in full force here, especially the ideas that drug use brings out your creativity and that money can buy a lack of responsibility or concern for others. Even after Moondog's wife dies in a car accident while driving under the influence, he still drives, boats, and flies while either he or the pilot is smashed (which is most of the time). The sexual acts are graphic, the drug use is prolific (pot, cocaine, and more), the language is constant and crude ("f--k," "s--t," and much more), and the messages are appalling. Zac Efron co-stars as a preacher's son who thinks he's found a spiritual loophole -- i.e., that it's fine for him to commit crimes like attacking and robbing an elderly disabled man because Jesus already died for our sins. Other than Moondog's daughter, most of the women in the film are topless sexual accessories who seem to exist only for a man's pleasure.
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What's the story?
In THE BEACH BUM, Moondog (Matthew McConaughey) is a poet for whom the party never stops; his motto is "fun is the gun." But when his rich wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher), dies in a car crash, she tries to motivate him to greatness through her will: He's cut off immediately until he produces another book. Moondog keeps the party going and the drugs flowing while he looks to write one more volume of artistic merit.
Is it any good?
Just like being at a party with a friend who's obliterated, this comedy is occasionally funny but mostly annoying. Yes, McConaughey stars in a role that the real-life bongo drummer seemed destined to play: a womanizing, burnout poet who's loved by all and floats through life without a care in the world. But Moondog really doesn't care about anything: not keeping up with his daughter, staying faithful to his wife, staying out of jail, or writing his next book. He's only committed to having fun, and it would seem that he's high on life -- except that he's constantly high on everything else. Life is a nonstop party, and the audience is pulled into Moondog's haze.
In The Beach Bum, director Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers) has made another movie with outrageous, hedonistic characters who live in total excess. The worry is how all that might rub off on younger viewers. For instance, Moondog and his wife marry off their daughter and refer to her groom as "limp d--k" -- to his face. When one character uncomfortably brings up the time when he behaved inappropriately around Moondog's daughter, Moondog says he didn't mind. When asked why he invited a gang of homeless people to trash and destroy his own mansion, Moondog responds, "Uh ... BOREDOM!" And, when Moondog is talking to his sleazy agent (Jonah Hill, sporting a ridiculous Southern accent), a comment is made that seems to sum up the movie's perspective: that the best part of being rich is "you can be just horrible to people, and they have to take it." But here's the kicker: As a moviegoer, you don't.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Moondog and his family's attitude toward life. How does Moondog and Minnie's lifestyle affect their daughter? Do you think the consequences are realistic? If not, what do you think the real-life consequences would be?
How is substance use/abuse depicted in the film? Is Moondog an addict? Does the film glamorize drug and alcohol use?
Flicker says constantly that people have a free pass to be as terrible as they want because Jesus already died for our sins. Do you agree?
How does the movie handle sex, nudity, and innuendo? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
What do you think the movie's message is? What audience is it aimed at? How can you tell?
- In theaters: March 29, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: June 18, 2019
- Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron
- Director: Harmony Korine
- Studio: Neon
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive drug and alcohol use, language throughout, nudity and some strong sexual content
- Last updated: May 21, 2020
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