A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
With songs by Cole Porter, this colorful Vincente Minnelli period piece is about Manuela (Judy Garland), whose status-seeking aunt arranges for her to marry a rich local in their small Caribbean town. But the girl is starry-eyed for the dashing and infamous pirate "Mack the Black" Macoco. When traveling actor Serafin (Gene Kelly) spots Manuela during one of his troupe's performances, he chooses her for a hypnosis demonstration (in which she breaks into a show-stopping song). When she awakens to her embarrassment, she hurries home to dutifully accept her rum-pot of a fiancé. Serafin follows Manuela and, in trying to woo her, poses as Mack the Black. Upon learning of Serafin's deception, the previously swooning Manuela attacks him in a comical scene of cartoonish violence. No vase is spared.
Is it any good?
The Pirate is charming but, given its all-star cast and crew, a little disappointing. Don't expect to get too invested in the characters' lives or see development. The costumes and sets look phony (though storybook-familiar to your kids) and, although this is a period piece, the colonial-era Caribbean is clearly an MGM sound stage. Moreover, the obligatory dream sequence in which Gene Kelly dances around flames in thigh-high cut-offs is dated, to say the least.
One dance number with Kelly and the Nicholas Brothers makes the film especially memorable. Some theater owners cut the scene when it was released in 1948 because it portrayed African Americans on equal footing -- at least in the fancy footwork sense -- with whites.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender roles in the 1940s. How does Serafin treat women as he sings "Nina"? Based on what Manuela knows about the legendary pirate Macoco, why is she attracted to him? Stock portrayals of certain "types" can be the center of a discussion about gender, race, and beauty. Does Manuela dread marrying Don Pedro for any reason other than his looks? How do mob mentality and public opinion factor into the characters' fates?
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