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 Out-of-Towners is a 1999 remake of the 1970 movie written by Neil Simon. Two lead characters stumble into a meeting of sex addicts in which compulsive masturbation and nymphomania are discussed. A couple tries to have sex in the grass outside Tavern on the Green, and the couple's daughter lives next door to a dominatrix. A character is given what he believes to be aspirin but soon discovers that it's a hallucinogenic of some kind and acts accordingly. There is some mild profanity: "bitch," "damn," "ass." This screwball comedy also has occasional moments of slapstick violence, a cross-dressing hotel manager, and moments of near-sex interrupted at comedically opportune times. Even without the mature content, the movie's overall themes of empty nests, lackluster sex lives, and mid-life crises make this most enjoyable for teens and adults.
What's the story?
Henry (Steve Martin) and Nancy Clark (Goldie Hawn) are at a crossroads. Their son has just left their Ohio home, and they are now officially "empty nesters." Henry has just lost his job in advertising and hasn't informed Nancy. Together, they fly to New York City, where Henry has a promising job interview. But then their flight is rerouted to Boston, and that's just the beginning of their troubles. The navigation system of their rental car sends them crashing into fish. They're mugged by a man who claims to be Andrew Lloyd Weber. And their one remaining credit card has been maxed out by their daughter, so they can't check into their hotel managed by an obsequious yet merciless Englishman (John Cleese). And it doesn't get much better. Through one comedic misadventure after the next, Henry and Nancy must rely on their wits and determination to survive everything New York City is throwing at them and figure out a way to get Henry to the job interview in one piece.
Is it any good?
Considering the vast talent involved in this movie, it's surprising that this remake of THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS isn't better than it is. It's entertaining, but it doesn't quite add up to a satisfying whole. For starters, there's a surprising lack of chemistry between Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, and this is magnified by the urbane (if a bit dated) wit of Neil Simon's dialogue not feeling authentic coming out of their mouths. Even with John Cleese playing a somewhat tweaked version of Basil Fawlty, there still aren't as many laughs as there should be.
This formulaic film follows a familiar-enough screwball comedy-of-errors pattern that has been done better in many other movies. It isn't a bad movie so much as it's disappointing, especially for those who are fans of Simon, Martin, and Hawn.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about remakes. What would be the challenges of remaking a movie that was originally written in 1970 and setting it in contemporary times?
What are some of the different styles of humor employed in this movie?
Why do you think the "mid-life crisis" is a recurring theme in so many movies?
- In theaters: January 22, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: September 21, 1999
- Cast: Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn, John Cleese
- Director: Sam Weisman
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Adventures
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: Some sex and drug-related humor.
- Last updated: March 5, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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