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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 War Dogs is an irreverent, fact-based comedy from the director of the Hangover movies about twentysomething arms dealers who landed a $300 million government contract in 2007 to supply weapons for U.S. allies in Afghanistan. So it's not surprising that guns play a large part in the movie's plot. And there's a fair amount of shooting, though very little blood or death. More often, characters are beaten up. The main characters also smoke pot frequently, as well as drink beer and sniff cocaine; there's also some smoking. Language is strong, with multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. Expect quite a bit of raunchy innuendo and sex talk, along with some other minor sexual situations, kissing, scantily clad dancers, and a naked male butt. Teens could be drawn in by stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, and though the characters' bad behavior is played for laughs, there are eventually (some) consequences for what they do, and the movie offers something of a satire on war and the economy that could inspire interesting discussion.
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What's the story?
In WAR DOGS, David Packouz (Miles Teller) is making a meager living as a massage therapist in Florida in 2005. When his girlfriend, Iz (Ana de Armas), announces that she's pregnant, David doesn't know how he's going to make it. That's when old pal Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) -- who sells weapons, ammo, and other military equipment to the U.S. military overseas -- offers him a job. The pair's adventures take them to the Middle East, where they must physically drive a truckload of Derringers through Jordan to Iraq. But their biggest challenge comes when they win a contract to supply hundreds of millions of AK-47 bullets. A new contact (Bradley Cooper) sets them up in Albania, but there's a problem. Can the old friends survive this dangerous game?
Is it any good?
Gleefully irreverent, with a so-crazy-it-must-be-true vibe, this exuberant comedy manages to be wildly entertaining while simultaneously finding alarming cracks in the fabric of American society. Director Todd Phillips started decades ago with a punk rock documentary about GG Allin & the Murder Junkies, and he's at his best whenever he's able to keep up that kind of energy in his work (i.e. Old School, The Hangover, etc.).
However -- unlike the similar The Wolf of Wall Street -- War Dogs can't quite sustain its zing, and, like many Hollywood comedies, the humor flags as the filmmakers settle in to wrap up the story. De Armas plays an unfortunately typical "girlfriend" role, and there are a few too many rock songs on the soundtrack; perhaps tightening up those things could have quickened the movie's pace. But Hill gives a fascinating, hilarious performance as the consummate salesman who's as diverting as he is calculating, and Teller is a good match. As it stands, the movie is very funny -- and a little bit smart.
Talk to your kids about ...
Can these characters be considered role models? What are their rewards? Their punishments?
What does the movie have to say about war, the military, and business in America? Does the movie inspire you to find out more?
How are female characters portrayed in the movie? What message does that send?