A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this mockumentary contains some strong language, but the number of times bad and borderline-bad words are used can be counted on one hand. Aside from a little innuendo and a brief discussion of one character's penile reduction surgery, this lighthearted comedy avoids sexual references/visuals. That said, the main character gives off a stereotypical homosexual vibe, but his orientation and intimate relationships are never brought into play (except when the character divulges that he enjoys picking out fabulous pantsuits for his wife). Parents should also know that some characters smoke and drink. Set in a small Midwestern town and heavy with positive themes like patriotism, civic pride, and strengthening the community, this comedy is relatively tame for its R rating. Even so, younger kids may not enjoy or understand the film's mix of subtle and campy humor.
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What's the story?
The cast and crew of a small-town theater dream of hitting it big on Broadway in this campy mockumentary directed by Christopher Guest. Set in freakishly friendly Blaine, Missouri, the story follows theater director Corky St. Claire (Guest) as he creates a homespun production in honor of the town's 150th anniversary. Likeable St. Claire -- who appears to be gay but not "out" -- meets with the city council, gossips about potential casting decisions, and auditions a long line of Blaine's quirkiest locals. In the hilarious audition scenes, perky travel agents Ron and Sheila Albertson (Fred Willard and Catherine O'Hara) sing and dance their way into the production with a moving rendition of "Midnight at the Oasis," deadpan dentist Allan Pearl (Eugene Levy) lands a part by channeling his Yiddish ancestors, and Dairy Queen princess Libby Mae Brown (Parker Posey) relies on a slightly seductive song and impressive Rockette kicks to charm her way into a leading role. Rehearsals are barely underway when St. Claire gets word that a Broadway producer plans to attend Blaine's historical musical. With no time to waste, the amateur thespians scramble to turn their sloppy production into serious theater -- but will their dreams of Broadway come true? Or will they be stuck in Blaine forever?
Is it any good?
From Blaine's bear-fighting founder to the town's extraterrestrial connections, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN is an enjoyably spoofy look at a small town and its oddball citizens. Guest's faux documentary approach gives viewers an amusing "fly on the wall" experience, and while the storyline is mostly tongue in cheek, the amateur musical feels authentic with its rickety sets and downright hilarious lyrics that only the locals can appreciate.
There's plenty to like about Guffman, but parents should be advised that, like Guest's other mockumentaries, this film is built around droll, quirky humor that may escape some kids -- especially the younger set, who may not get the eccentric, small town characters and will probably find the storyline a bit slow. But for those who do enjoy quirky little comedies, there's even more here than the clever script and hilarious performances; Waiting for Guffman in its own way emphasizes positive messages, including civic pride and working together toward a common goal.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it's important for a community to remember and celebrate town history. What did the community and actors gain from putting on the production in celebration of the town's 150th anniversary? Why was putting on the show still an important thing for the characters to do, even though they suffered a disappointment when the curtain went down? Families can also talk about the format of the "mockumentary." What can the filmmakers get away with saying and doing because the movie is a spoof?
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