Australian Council on Children and the Media

Dr Plonk

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Short takes

PG to 8 (lacks interest, silent film with subtitles, slapstick violence)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Dr Plonk
  • a review of Dr Plonk completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 5 September 2007.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Parental guidance recommended. The film contains continual slapstick violence, lacks interest for this age group and includes subtitles which children may be unable to read.
Children aged 8-13 OK without parental guidance, but children in this age range may also find the film uninteresting after a period of time and the level of satire challenging.
Children over the age of 13 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Dr Plonk
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: None
Length 86 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The year is 1907 and Dr Plonk (Nigel Lunghi), after an inspired frenzy of mathematical calculations, has come to the conclusion that the world will end in 101 years (the year 2008) unless immediate action is taken. He takes his calculations to Prime Minister Stalk (Wayne Anthoney), but is ridiculed by both politicians and his fellow scientists. Dr Plonk needs proof and so, with the help of his assistant Paulus (Paul Blackwell) and Mrs. Plonk (Magda Szubanski), invents a time machine that will enable him to travel one hundred years into the future. The time machine consists in part of a coffin-like box into which the traveller climbs.
Plonk’s dog Tiberius, followed by Plonk himself and then Paulus are all transported through time. Plonk makes a number of trips to 2007, often with dangerous consequences. After a number of adventures, Plonk finds the ultimate proof of the planet’s doom when he encounters suburban families glued like zombies to their television sets watching programs entitled “End of the World”.
Plonk decides to take the proof back to 1907 and, with the assistance of Paulus, steals a television set, which is unfortunately destroyed in transport. Plonks then transports Prime Minister Stalk to 2007 to show him the proof. However Plonk’s adventures go badly wrong when he is labelled a terrorist.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Time travel; the end of the world

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Dr. Plonk contains continual slapstick-like violence reminiscent of the silent film era, including:

  • Dr and Mrs Plonk repeatedly slap and hit Paulus across the back of his head, kick him and pull him by the ear.
  • Dr Plonk and Paulus are knocked to the ground when they run into Mrs. Plonk.
  • Dr. Plonk kicks his chauffeur out of Plonk’s steam car with the chauffeur sprawling on the ground.
  • A woman on a park bench hits Paulus over the head and a man hits Paulus over the head with his cane.
  • Dr. Plonk squashes Paulus’s fingers with a metal weight.
  • A man walking along a street kicks a small boy in the bottom.
  • Dr Plonk hits a policeman over the head and then runs his steam car over the policeman.
  • Dr Plonk is captured by indigenous Australians placed in his time machine and put over a fire to be cooked for eating. When Plonk is returned to 1907 the box is full of smoke and Plonk is scorched black.
  • Plonk forces Paulus into the coffin time machine, pushing Paulus down with his foot.
  • Dr Plonk runs into Mrs. Plonk knocking her to the floor. 
  • Plonk’s dog Tiberius bites Paulus on the crotch.
  • Dr Plonk sticks his finger up Paulus’s nose pulling Paulus up from the ground.
  • Paulus pretends to drill a hole in Dr Plonk’s bottom with an old fashioned drill.     
  • At on point Dr Plonk materialises in 2007 in a shipping yard and is nearly squashed by a falling shipping container.
  • Plonk is chased by several security guards wielding handguns.
  • Paulus stabs himself in the foot with the spike on the top of an umbrella. 
  • At one point the time machine materialises on top of Paulus, squashing him.
  • Dr Plonk hits a shop assistant over the head, knocking them unconscious.
  • In a mad rush to enter parliament, Dr Plonk knocks over more than a dozen people.
  • Dr Plonk is chased by numerous policemen resulting in the policemen falling over each other and falling off of buildings.  
  • Dr Plonk is tackled and jumped on by more than a dozen policemen.
  • The police blow up Dr. Plonk’s time machine with rocket propelled grenades.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under five including the following:

  • On several occasions, Dr Plonk’s time machine box materialises in 2007 across train tracks with oncoming trains nearly him running over.
  • Dr Plonk materialises in 2007 in a shipping yard and is nearly squashed by a falling shipping container.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children over eight are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children over eight are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

Dr Plonk contains some sexual innuendo including:

  • Paulus sits on a park bench next to a woman moving closer to her in a suggestive manner and eventually putting his arm around her. The woman gets up and hits Paulus over the head.
  • On returning from a trip to 2007 Paulus arrives back lying in the coffin time machine with a young woman. Dr Plonk forces Paulus to take the woman back to 2007, and when Paulus arrives back he is smiling and wearing only his underwear.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some partial nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • A man and woman kiss in some bushes.
  • Paulus is found hiding under Mrs Plonk’s dress.
  • Mrs Plonk flirts with Paulus, smiling and fluttering her eyelids.
  • While trapped in an asylum in 2007, Prime Minister Stalk watches a man and a woman kissing on TV. Stalk is then shown with his jaw hanging open suggesting that more than kissing may be occurring on the television screen.  
  • While in 2007, Paulus is desperate to go to the toilet and he is depicted holding on to his crotch. Paulus transports himself back to 1907 so he can go to the toilet.
  • When Paulus arrives back in 1907 with a young woman from 2007, the woman is depicted wearing clothing that exposes her midriff.
  • While two policeman are chasing Dr. Plonk, one of the policeman falls from an overhead walkway . The second policeman accidentally pulls down the first policeman’s trousers exposing his underwear. 

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • In several scenes Paulus takes sly swigs from a hip flask.

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

Dr. Plonk directed by Rolf de Heer is a slapstick comedy made in the style of the silent film era. Children may enjoy some of the comedy and, particularly, Tiberius the dog. However, the film’s satire is more suited to an adolescent/adult audience and younger children may find the film uninteresting, and will be unable to read the film’s subtitles.

The messages in the film are presented as a satirical look at features of our society, including

  • a tendency to label strangers as terrorists
  • a media culture where whatever is seen on television is unquestioned
  • a parliament that is inaccessible, with politicians who refuse to believe scientific evidence and who are impotent and arrogant when responding to issues that have a global impact

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