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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 Vice is an irreverent biopic from writer/director Adam McKay (The Big Short) about Vice President Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), who served under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009. Expect frequent strong language, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "son of a bitch," and more. Heart surgery is shown briefly, and there are flashes of violence, including images of war, bombings, shooting, and torture. There's also fighting, a car crash, and an injury. A married couple is shown in bed together (not at all racy), and there's a brief, nonsexual glimpse of a naked male bottom. The main character starts out with a drinking problem; he gets drunk, drives drunk, and has a hangover. But he later stops drinking and never returns to it. Other characters drink socially; some smoke. Like The Big Short, this is an incendiary movie that may attract the attention of politically minded older teens.
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What's the story?
In VICE, young Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) is a hard drinker and a bar brawler; he gets thrown out of Yale and winds up in jail for drunk driving. His girlfriend, Lynne (Amy Adams), gives him an ultimatum, and Cheney agrees to straighten out. He becomes a congressional intern, starts working with Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), and holds several positions in the White House, eventually losing his job when Jimmy Carter is elected president. Years later, Cheney is approached by George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) to be Bush's running mate. Cheney reluctantly agrees, but only after he convinces Bush to let him take on some of the larger, "duller" responsibilities of the office of the president. When the 9/11 attacks occur, Cheney senses an opportunity to turn his position into one of enormous power, forever changing the way politics are played.
Is it any good?
A comedy veteran , writer/director Adam McKay brings a strong irreverence and some quirky humor to this biopic, yet it can't disguise its sheer outrage; its laughs come through openmouthed dismay. McKay uses a variety of unexpected tools in Vice, including a surprising narrator choice and offbeat little inserts and alternate realities (the movie has a funny false ending halfway through). An opening crawl claims that the movie is a true story, then says that since Cheney was so secretive, they just did the best they could. These touches help get the story down more easily, and certainly the tone often teeters toward satirical, which feels almost like vindication. But some viewers will still feel helplessly furious.
As with his previous drama, The Big Short, McKay sets aside the clean, colorful look of his comedies (the Anchorman movies, etc.) in favor of a washed-out, edgy look, with frequent use of hand-held cameras. The enormous canvas requires many helping hands, and viewers will find amazing actors in even the smallest roles. In bigger parts, Adams, Carell, and Rockwell do admirable work, but their roles are sidelined and not as fully fleshed out as the central one. Playing Cheney, Bale more than disappears. He hides; it's not a particularly personal performance, but it's skillful and highly effective. All in all, Vice feels like a much-needed, cleansing primal scream at politics.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Vice's use of violence. Why do you think McKay decided to include flashes of war, shooting, explosions, torture, etc.? What purpose do these images serve? How do they make you feel?
How does the movie view Cheney? Would you say it's a biased or unbiased portrait? What's the difference?
What did you learn from the movie? How much do you suppose is based on truth? Did it inspire you to do additional research?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.