Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
VHYes Movie Poster Image
Uneven retro comedy has lots of sex, drug humor.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 72 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Close family ties are encouraged, as is the freedom for kids to explore their surroundings and talents. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ralph's parents love him and each other. They let him use his camcorder and trust him to explore the new technology. Ralph is curious and a good friend. 


In the true-crime show, a character is dead, and blood is visible. Frightening haunted house sequence includes kids breaking into an old house, running away from potential ghosts, being scared in the house.


Parody of late-night soft-core movies like those that appeared on '80s cable. Characters are about to engage in sexual acts, including threesomes and oral sex, but the channel always changes before anything graphic is visible.


Use of "f--k," "c--k," "s--t," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The wedding video shows adults drinking. TV hosts make several jokes about cocaine and drug bags, pretending that they're other items to sell.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that VHYes is a retro comedy set in 1987 about a middle school boy who gets a video camera for Christmas and starts recording his everyday life over his parents' wedding tape. Directed by Jack Henry Robbins and shot entirely on VHS and Betamax, the movie switches between recordings of the boy's life, VCR tapes of various fictional TV shows, and snippets of the wedding video. There's lots of suggestive material, especially in the parodies of late-night soft-core porn and even in the infomercials and painting shows. For example: A female Bob Ross-style painter's work depicts what looks more like Dennis Rodman performing oral sex on the painter than a basketball move, and after-hours movies like Hot Winter are erotic stories with low production values (no graphic nudity is shown). Characters also use strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and more) and make crass comments, and drug paraphernalia is featured. Spoofs of true-crime dramas include murdered characters covered in blood, and a fight nearly breaks out during the wedding reception. Despite some high-profile cameos (director Jack Henry Robbins parents, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, both make appearances) and occasional laughs, this indie comedy isn't likely to appeal to mainstream audiences.

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What's the story?

VHYES opens on Christmas Day 1987, when 12-year-old Ralph (Mason McNulty) starts using his big present: a camcorder with which he's unknowingly recording over his parents' wedding video. The movie, which was shot on VHS and Betamax, plays like found footage of everything on Ralph's VHS tape: Ralph's everyday adventures with his friends, the various TV shows he records on the VCR, and the leftover snippets of the original wedding video. The fictional programs Ralph records are parodies of '80s TV: There are infomercials (starring Thomas Lennon and Courtney Pauroso as QVC-style hosts), true-crime/police dramas, public television antique auditing specials (with Mark Proksch as the appraiser), and late-night offerings like a painter (Kerri Kenney) of happy landscapes (and even happier, suggestive material). There's also edited-for-TV erotica that will make viewers of a certain age remember the term "Skinemax," public access garage-band shows, and more  -- including cameos from writer-director Jack Henry Robbins' parents, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.

Is it any good?

Occasional laughs and a quirky nostalgic sensibility make this indie comedy passably amusing, but its lack of a cohesive plot and ultrashort runtime diminish its entertainment value. Those who grew up in the '80s will appreciate the spoofing of that TV era, particularly Kenney's take on a female version of Bob Ross -- that quiet-voiced painter of happy trees -- which has a surprisingly risque twist. Lennon and Proksch are comedic veterans and do the best they can with the improvisational-seeming screenplay, but there's not enough here beyond the parody jokes.

Ralph's story emerges in the second half of VHYes, but even his admittedly touching conversation with a haunted version of his mother isn't enough to glue together the movie's disparate collection of TV snippets, wedding details, and middle school recordings. The fact that the film was actually shot in VHS and Beta makes for an authentic but less than pleasant viewing experience. Still, despite its flaws, there's just enough here that's genuinely funny to make you wonder what Robbins could do with a more feature-length movie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the suggestive material and jokes in VHYes. Who do you think the movie's target audience is? Do you have to be familiar with the '80s to get the jokes?

  • Why do you think nostalgia-themed films are popular? Talk about the nature of throwback TV shows and films in pop culture. If the '80s and '90s are popular now, what decades do you think were popular to explore during the '80s and '90s?

  • Is anyone in the movie a role model? If so, what character strengths do they display? If not, are role models important in movies?

Movie details

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