The North Avenue Irregulars

Movie review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The North Avenue Irregulars Movie Poster Image
Church ladies become screwball sleuths in mild '70s comedy.
  • G
  • 2004
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Intended for entertainment, not education.

Positive Messages

At one point Minister Hill explains why he sticks to his guns and goes after the gambling ring saying, "The church should be a moral force in the community." In general the message is that sitting by and watching a crime happen may be easier but it isn't right.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Minister Hill gets some very unprepared women in the middle of some dangerous work and it doesn't seem like anyone really understands the risks, but all their hearts are in the right place. They want a better community and a vibrant church.

Violence & Scariness

A few shots are fired, but it's mostly car chases and rather silly car crashes in the finale. The church explodes with no one inside. Gamblers threaten the minister. A woman punches her fiance and a man falls from the church roof into a blanket unhurt.

Sexy Stuff

Two quick kisses. A scene where all the men are gambling in boxer shorts because the dry cleaner is pressing their pants in the front of the store. When Minister Hill gets tossed out he wears only boxers home. One of the ladies dresses provocatively in a bar.


Negative talk about the sleuthing female characters using phrases like "ding-a-ling dames" and "dumb, stupid broads."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A woman orders a margarita, which is eventually thrown in someone's face. A couple of drinks requested or offered but not taken.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this mild madcap comedy from 1979 is full of silly car chases, one explosion where no one is hurt, and that's about it. The incompetence of some stereotyped church ladies turned sleuths generates most of the laughs; it's all pretty harmlessly funny except when men call them "ding-a-ling dames" and "stupid broads."

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What's the story?

When Minister Hill (Edward Herrmann) starts work at the North Avenue parish one of his first decisions is a bad one: he hands over responsibility for the church emergency fund to a parishioner whose husband bets it all on a horse. When Hill tries to get it back he finds out the town is full of gambling rings and the police are in on it. Then come two men from the U.S. Treasury Department hoping Hill will help them break up the ring with the right connections in town. Hill goes door to door and can't get anyone to come forward, giving him the idea that no one would suspect the sleuthing of the nice church ladies who volunteer daily. They're a little too eager to help when he asks and bumble through placing bets with planted tape recorders and tailing the crooks through the streets. So much goes conspicuously wrong that the gamblers finally decide to fight back, putting the church ladies at risk and Minister Hill's job in jeopardy.

Is it any good?

THE NORTH AVENUE IRREGULARS is mild screwball silliness for a good 98 minutes. There are two minutes where the church explodes and Minister Hill questions himself, then we're back to it. The end car chase/crash scene keeps those giant '70s cars piling up -- but nowhere near the level of Blues Brothers. The ensemble cast is probably the best part, though they're not given the greatest forum for their talents. Cloris Leachman and Barbara Harris are particularly funny.

This is one of those comedies that would make you pause and enjoy 15 minutes on TV -- perhaps -- but it's not something viewers would actively seek out for full-throttle comic enjoyment. In other words, this '70s Disney effort is forgettable but will garner a few laughs.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about madcap comedies. Which ones do you like? How are older comedies like this one different from today's comic fare? How are they the same?

  • Families can also talk about the "ding-a-ling dames." Do terms like that offend you or do you think they're just hilariously outdated? Or a little of both? How does it show how things have changed since the '70s?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

Themes & Topics

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