Where the Boys Are

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Where the Boys Are Movie Poster Image
1960s spring break film focuses on drinking and sex.
  • NR
  • 1960
  • 99 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Promotes strong friendships, adherence to virtuous behavior. Set in 1960, the film disapproves of casual sex for women; naive character who engages in sexual activity faces severe consequences of what is presented as a lapse in judgment. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nineteen-sixties college girls are solely motivated to find the right boy, make a connection, then make a commitment. College-age boys are almost all solely motivated to find a girl, get her to have sex, and forgo commitment. No one has anything on his or her mind during college spring break but partying, sex, drinking, and ultimately finding a partner. No ethnic diversity.

Violence

Spoiler alert: It's strongly implied that a young woman is forced to have sex (off camera); in the aftermath, she's distraught and walks onto a busy highway oblivious to the traffic, suffers a "close call." 

Sex

Movie's basic premise (and all the conflict) is based on whether or not girls will have casual sex before commitment. Multiple discussions about "good girls" and importance of not succumbing to sexual pressure. With one exception, all the young men are determined to encourage girls they've just met to have sex. All manner of persuasion is used to seduce the quartet of very innocent girls. On-screen sexual behavior limited to kissing and embracing. One girl has off-camera consensual sex, then is a victim of a sexual assault, also off camera. Standard 1960s bathing suits are worn in many scenes.

Language

One "hell."

Consumerism

Some 1960 Florida hotels and nightclubs are identified.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults and underage college students drink alcohol on the beach, in bars, in hotel rooms. Some drunkenness -- an inebriated young man gets escorted from the beach in several scenes. A young woman comes home very drunk and is put to bed by her friends; she wakes up with a hangover. Some smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Where the Boys Are, a classic romantic-comedy from 1960, raises some of the important issues for college kids of that era: 1). Will I find a husband during Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale? The answer: Probably. 2). How much partying is permissible? The answer: Lots, mostly on the beach with plenty of underage drinking and some drunkenness. 3). Should a girl have sex before marriage? The answer: A resounding no, unless you're willing to suffer some pretty devastating consequences. So, an assortment of college-age females are divided into two categories: "good" girls and girls who'll have sex. The college-age males are divided into two categories: boys who'll do just about anything to convince a girl to sleep with them, and the 1 percent who are obsessed with music. Amid the fun, comic portrayals, quirky romances, and lovable stereotypes are some serious and suspenseful moments, all concerning the most naive of the young female students. Desperate to be in love, she abandons the strict rules of her upbringing and finds herself in jeopardy from predatory males and (spoiler alert) is the victim of an off-camera sexual assault.

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What's the story?

Determined to let loose, have fun, and meet the men of their dreams, four Midwestern college coeds venture to the warm climes of the Spring Break Mecca of 1960: Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In WHERE THE BOYS ARE, each of those spirited young women will be changed forever as she basks in the warmth of male attention as well as sunny skies. Wholesome, smart Merritt (Dolores Hart) meets rich Ivy League dreamboat, Ryder (George Hamilton). Comic, self-deprecating, and very tall Tuggie (Paula Prentice) meets free-spirit, funny "TV" (Jim Hutton). Spitfire with a great singing voice Angie (Connie Francis) meets myopic jazz enthusiast, Basil (Frank Gorshin). Though three of the four girls are up to the task of dealing with the raging hormones of the young men, Melanie (Yvette Mimieux) gets in way over her head in her quest for a "Yalie" to call her own. As a result, in the only serious moments of the movie, Melanie finds herself in both physical and emotional jeopardy from heartless sexual predators. 

Is it any good?

For fresh audiences, especially teens, it's dated but still fun. For many in the older set, it's a great piece of nostalgia. Beloved when it was released, the title song was a giant hit; Connie Francis was a star; teen girls flocked for repeat showings. The movie validated romance, virtue, and growing up with single-minded goals for women.

Overall, it's a terrific look back at a mostly innocent time when kids broke out in song, partied without consequences, and found love in all the right places. Still, "back in the day," there had to be a moral for almost every story, and Where the Boys Are is no exception. Melanie's "punishable" sexual behavior by 1960s standards, and its briefly frightening outcome, mars what is otherwise a very enjoyable and engaging remembrance of a different era.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how teen attitudes and values have changed since this movie was made in 1960. How have attitudes about drinking shifted? Sexuality? Gender roles? 

  • In what ways are modern-day kids the same as those portrayed in Where the Boys Are

  • The 1960s were years of tremendous cultural change in the United States. Think of factors that contributed to that fact (the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement). If this movie is representative of the early years of the decade, what later movies in the late 60s and early 1970s reflected those changes?

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