A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that certain segments in this fantasy anthology contain acts of violence. In the first narrative in particular, racially-tinged acts of brutality and intimidation (and verbal racist slurs) get to be practically nonstop. Horrific elements include a sneering, demon-like monster and some grotesque creatures inspired by cartoon characters. There is some light swearing, smoking and drinking, and taking of sedative pills. There's also some don't-try-this-at-home reckless driving.
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What's the story?
The revered TV half-hour The Twilight Zone, which originally aired 1959-65 and told different sci-fi and fantasy-tinged morality plays each week, inspired this big-budget movie anthology. Three parts remake favorite TZ episodes, but the first is original, about a bigoted businessman (Vic Morrow), ranting about losing a job promotion to a Jew, who instantly finds himself knocked about the whole 20th century, suffering the same persecutions as blacks in the Jim Crow South, Jews in the Holocaust, and Indochinese during the Vietnam War. The second story has a magical visitor (Scatman Crothers) to an old-folks home, giving the seniors a chance to start life over as six-year-olds -- if they want to. In the third tale a stranger stumbles into the captive household of Anthony (Jeremy Licht), a cartoon-crazed kid with awesome psychic powers to make his every whim come true, but who isn't truly happy. In the finale, a computer scientist (John Lithgow) with a crippling fear of flying is on a storm-tossed airliner when he sees a sadistic monster outside, seemingly tearing up the wing.
Is it any good?
Joe Dante's quirky take on the poor-little-all-powerful-boy Anthony (actually a re-filming of a famed short story, "It's a Good Life") is clever, if a little fixated on f/x. The gangbusters last story, done by George Miller, is the best (though never likely to be shown as an in-flight movie), but an awkward framing device (guest starring Dan Aykroyd) recurs to remind what a haphazard construct the whole feature is.
Despite Hollywood's biggest directors involved, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE mainly is sad trivia: the feature in which Vic Morrow (and two child actors) died in a freak accident, perishing beneath a crashing helicopter while filming the Vietnam section. None of that appears in the disappointing segment itself, a one-note bashing of a nasty guy. Episodes seem to have arranged to get better as they go along (which was smart). Steven Spielberg's gentle but so-so episode of golden-agers turning young is unusually modest for the spectacle-inclined filmmaker, but this would be done so much better in Cocoon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about which stories they liked best and why.
Discuss Anthony, the little boy who is all-powerful. Ask kids what they would be like if they could make anything happen.
Video compilations of the original Twilight Zone exist, and some episodes got big-budget remakes here. Treat this as an opportunity to get kids to watch the black-and-white classic.
- In theaters: June 23, 1983
- On DVD or streaming: October 9, 2007
- Cast: Albert Brooks, Burgess Meredith, Dan Aykroyd, John Laroquette, John Lithgow, Kathleen Quinlan, Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Cartwright, Scatman Crothers, Vic Morrow
- Directors: George Miller, Joe Dante, John Landis, Steven Spielberg
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and fantasy
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
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