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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 TOMBSTONE is a very violent modern-day Western about Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and his friend Doc Holliday. As it starts out, Earp and his brothers are retired lawmen, looking to relax and make some money. When a group of villains called the Cowboys starts to make trouble, the Earps make it clear that they do not want to get involved. Eventually, they decide to stand up and do the right thing, though not without a hint of vengeance. The movie is filled with guns, shooting, killing, and gushing blood, as well as some language, alcohol, and drugs (opium), and some mild sexual situations. This movie is much admired -- even by non-Western fans -- especially for its portrayal of the friendship between Earp (Kurt Russell) and Holliday (Val Kilmer). But for younger viewers, a better introduction to the Wyatt Earp legend is John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946).
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What's the story?
Former lawman Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) decides to retire in the growing town of Tombstone with his two brothers. There, they meet Wyatt's old friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer), a gunslinger with tuberculosis. The Earps plan to take it easy and make some money on a drinking/gambling establishment. Unfortunately, a band of violent criminals called the Cowboys starts to make trouble, and before long it becomes apparent that the Earps must take up their guns once again to help keep the peace. Meanwhile, a saucy showgirl (Dana Delany) has caught the married Wyatt's eye, causing even more trouble for him. Will Wyatt survive all this, plus a showdown with the malevolent sharpshooter Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn)?
Is it any good?
Tombstone will seem shockingly violent to those who already like Westerns, but for Rambo fans, it won't seem out of the ordinary. The movie has a few over-the-top moments, and there is perhaps too much story crammed into too little space, but it also has an energetic flow, and a genuinely rugged, exciting feel, unlike many of the more bloated, picturesque examples of the Western genre. Ultimately, it's Russell and Kilmer -- and their chemistry together -- that make this movie work.
Directed by George P. Cosmatos (Rambo: First Blood Part II), Tombstone had an inauspicious start when it was released to theaters without press screenings. Before long, however, fans were cheering over the terrific performances by Kurt Russell and especially Val Kilmer as the cool, verbose Doc Holliday. Though this wasn't enough to make the movie a hit, it has gained a solid fan following over the years. Many viewers generally prefer it to the much higher-profile Wyatt Earp (1994), released six months later.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the intense violence in the film. Was it necessary to tell the story? Was any of it gratuitous?
Why do you think the Western genre not as popular as it once was? Do you have a favorite Western?
The legendary hero Wyatt Earp has many flaws in this film. Do the flaws make him more interesting? Do they make him less of a hero?