The Errand Boy
By Grace Montgomery,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Jerry Lewis screwball comedy is tedious, lacks kid appeal.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No positive messages here. If you act idiotic, you'll be rewarded with fame and movie roles.
Positive Role Models
No role models here.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of slapstick accidents, some movie-set war scenes with guns, one fake scene of an actor slapping a woman in the face.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One on-screen kiss, some mild innuendo (a song about lovers, mention of "slipping into something more comfortable").
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lots of casual smoking and drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Errand Boy is a classic 1960s Jerry Lewis comedy that pokes fun at the movie industry. There's some movie-set violence, including war and cowboy scenes with fake guns going off, a behind-the-scenes look at how to fake a man hitting a woman, and lots of bumbling slapstick accidents. There's also some mild innuendo, including an on-screen kiss and a song about lovers. Casual drinking and smoking is plentiful, typical of movies from the era. Tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic jokes about the movie industry also are central to the plot and most likely will be over young kids' heads.
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The Errand Boy
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What's the Story?
After discovering they're losing money despite putting out successful movies, Paramutual Pictures decides to hire an inept spy, one no one will suspect, to sneak around the lot and find the missing funds. Bumbling Morty S. Tashman (Jerry Lewis) fits the bill perfectly and is brought on as an errand boy in the mail room. As Morty wreaks havoc at the studio, wandering from set to set and ruining movies left and right, the Paramutual executives start to wonder if they've hired the right man for the job.
Is It Any Good?
If you're not a fan of Jerry Lewis or slapstick comedy, the movie can feel interminable. Jerry Lewis comedies are divisive: You either love them or hate them. It's been argued by critics that The Errand Boy cleverly pokes fun at the ineptness of the movie industry, showing that the more idiotic you are, the more successful you'll be. And if you're a movie buff, there may or may not be some clever digs at famous stars from the era scattered throughout. But there's almost no plot, only endless scenes of Jerry Lewis fumbling around with no resolution. Lewis' ability to stretch a gag to the point of being uncomfortable made him brilliant to some but intolerable to others.
Kids might get a few laughs from the abundance of silliness, but they'll probably be bored before too long. And most of the commentary about the movie industry will be over kids' heads or just not very interesting. This is a flick probably best left to adult Jerry Lewis fans.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the film's commentary on the movie industry. What point do you think the film is trying to make?
The movie shows some behind-the-scenes looks at special effects in film. Do you think the techniques shown are still used today? How are special effects different now?
Do you like classic comedies? How are they different from more current films?
- In theaters: November 28, 1961
- On DVD or streaming: November 17, 2004
- Cast: Jerry Lewis, Brian Donlevy, Howard McNear
- Director: Jerry Lewis
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Classic
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: April 1, 2022
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