A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Nice Guys is a '70s-set action movie/buddy comedy starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. It taps into all that was racy/iffy about that time period, including the rise of the porn industry in Los Angeles, the generally somewhat-lax approach to parenting (i.e. drinking/smoking in front of your kids), and more. Teen girls are shown flirting or making out with men twice and three times their age, drinking in the presence of adults, and discussing sex acts openly with adults. Women walk around topless; you also see bare bottoms and lots of skimpy outfits. When characters watch a porn movie, the volume is turned up high; characters having sex in a porn film are shown from the side. The film is also laced with profanity (including "f--k," "s--t," and more) and drug use (mostly weed, and by adults) and has a lot of realistic, sometimes-graphic violence (shooting, killing, fighting, a character falling to his death with a giant splat, children in peril).
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What's the story?
No one would award private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) a Father of the Year award anytime soon: He's a booze hound who's relied too much on his smart, resourceful daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), since his wife died in a fire; he hasn't been the same since. He tends to take retainers from the elderly for cases he doesn't really work on much, but when a retiree insists that she's seen her reportedly dead porn star niece alive and well, March finds himself neck-deep in a hunt for another young woman, the runaway daughter of a city official (Kim Basinger). The girl has hired her own unofficial gumshoe, the envelope-pushing hothead Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), to get March off her trail. But March isn't the only one tailing the daughter; a few gun-toting men are, too. In due time, Healy and March team up to figure out what exactly is going on.
Is it any good?
THE NICE GUYS is full of vim and vinegar in the best way, channeling a 1970s L.A. vibe that's been bungled by many other filmmakers but is channeled to great effect here. The result is a buddy comedy that's fresh and fun, if flawed. On the plus side, Gosling and Crowe share such a great chemistry that they should bottle it and sell it to other buddy-comedy franchises. And Rice is a revelation as Gosling's daughter Holly, going toe to toe with the two stars. The pacing is rollicking, the look and feel a perfect breezy-raunchy 1970s. The film taps into nostalgia but feels thoroughly modern in its spirit.
That said, take this film too seriously, and you're bound to be disappointed by how it wraps up, because the plot that drives this vehicle has more holes than Swiss cheese. Of course, that may be the point, as it tweaks its genre, questioning the need for large, ponderous reasons for bad behavior. Good, old-fashioned human blinders and a misplacement of what you might call "core beliefs" may just be enough. (We can't say much more without giving the plot away.) Sometimes, even the baddest of the bunch may have lofty intentions that amount to simple delusion or ignorance. But isn't that how humans sometimes justify their smallest -- and biggest -- decisions?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Nice Guys. How much of it is necessary to the plot? Do you think any of it is gratuitous? Does exposure to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
How does the film portray sex? Is it valued as part of a loving relationship? What role do women play in the story? How does that reflect the movie's '70s setting?
How do the 1970s seem different, parenting-wise, to the present day? Do you think the differences are exaggerated? If so, why?
- In theaters: May 20, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: August 23, 2016
- Cast: Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Matt Bomer
- Director: Shane Black
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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