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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tucker: The Man and His Dream is a 1988 movie in which Jeff Bridges plays a post-WWII inventor who creates a groundbreaking automobile. Many of the characters smoke cigarettes and pipes. Characters drink martinis, beer, and whiskey. Some profanity is heard, including "damn," "hell," "goddammit," "bastards," "son of a bitch," "pr--k," and "ass." Some kissing is seen. Expect discrimination typical of the era: Abe calls Preston's partner a "Jap," and Preston says that Jimmy's family is all in a relocation camp. Characters also use the phrase "New Yorker" to mean "Jewish" when speaking of Abe. And Bennington calls Vera "the little woman" in a belittling way. Also, some images of people killed and bloodied in car accidents may be too much for younger or more sensitive viewers.
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What's the story?
TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM chronicles the struggles of ahead-of-his-time inventor Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges), who finds inspiration from a poll stating that 87 percent of people coming back from World War II want a new car. Behold the Tucker: A car with all kinds of bells and whistles that didn't exist at that time, including fuel injection, seatbelts, disc brakes, and roll bars. And he'll even make it look like a jet and put the engine in the rear. He could make a bundle! Tucker's dream has a chance to become a reality when he gets a friend to write an article extolling the virtues of a car he has not yet manufactured, and when he gains the business sense of Abe Karatz (Martin Landau). But when faced with the corruption of elected officials and a board of directors bent on tabling all his innovative ideas, what will happen to his invention? The answer may surprise you.
Is it any good?
This film could have been one long, self-righteous screed against corporations, à la An Unreasonable Man, but fortunately it's directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola. He makes his characters lovable, charming, even impish, and makes the telling of the story as important as the point it has to make. Kids and families will find lots to discuss and enjoy together. They may even be inspired to learn more about the real-life visionary this movie is based on.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the kind of work it takes to pursue a dream. Was Tucker a dreamer, a businessman, or an inventor? He did research, he worked with engineers, and he was a great salesman. Do you have to be all those things to start a new company? Do you have to lie?
How does the movie use irony to make a broader point about what happens when the creativity and ingenuity of inventors is stifled by big business interests?
What are the ways in which movies bring the past to life? How does this movie use clothing, music, slang, and dated cultural behaviors to show us a period in time?
- In theaters: August 12, 1988
- On DVD or streaming: October 24, 2000
- Cast: Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Martin Landau
- Director: Francis Ford Coppola
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, History
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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