Violence and profanity in unfunny, dated '80s comedy.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Three Fugitives is a 1989 action comedy starring Nick Nolte and Martin Short as a mismatched pair on the run from the police after a botched armed robbery and a case of mistaken identity. It's a 1980s movie formula -- two opposite characters that must work together -- that hasn't aged well, and the attempts at comedy frequently fall flat. There is frequent profanity -- Nolte's character has nicknamed Short's character "A--hole," for instance -- and there is frequent violence in the form of guns, fistfights, and car chases. Also, a van drives through the front of a dive bar, and a little girl runs into traffic.
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What's the Story?
Daniel Lucas (Nick Nolte) is released from prison after doing time for several armed robberies. After returning to Tacoma, he is greeted by Detective Dugan (James Earl Jones), who warns Lucas that he has his eye on him, and even gives Lucas a ride to a bank, where Lucas claims he wants to open a checking account. But while in the bank, Ned Perry (Martin Short) attempts to rob the bank, and when the police are alerted, Dugan naturally assumes that Lucas is the robber and is working with Perry to pull off the heist. As the two make their escape in a quasi-hostage situation, Perry complicates matters by accidentally shooting Lucas in the leg. As they try to figure out what to do next, a bond develops between Lucas and Perry's daughter Meg, who is mute and was the reason Perry attempted to rob the bank, as he could no longer afford her psychiatric treatment. Soon, Meg begins to display almost as much affection for Lucas as she does for her father as they go into hiding from the police and try to figure out a way to cross the border into Canada and begin a new life.
Is It Any Good?
In the decades since its 1989 release, THREE FUGITIVES has not aged well. The "mismatched partner" formula has long since been played out, and this problem is further exacerbated by what little chemistry Nick Nolte and Martin Short have. While they have both been entertaining on their own, together their styles don't quite seem to mesh. The jokes either fall flat or are reduced to the redundancy of Nolte's character constantly referring to Short's character as "A--hole."
But even if there was chemistry between Nolte and Short, the story itself is so cliche-ridden that it wouldn't really make much of a difference. And even with the addition of a "third fugitive," a mute little girl who is the reason Short's character attempted the bank robbery, there just isn't enough action or comedy to hold one's attention. Movies like this are as dated as mullet haircuts and acid-washed jeans.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about 1980s movies. What clearly identifies this movie as a movie from that decade?
What are some other examples of movies from the 1980s in which two opposite characters must set aside their differences and work together for the sake of a greater good?
What do you think is the appeal of the "mismatched partner" movies?
- In theaters: January 27, 1989
- On DVD or streaming: April 2, 2002
- Cast: Nick Nolte, Martin Short, James Earl Jones
- Director: Francis Veber
- Studio: Touchstone Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- Last updated: October 7, 2022
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