Australian Council on Children and the Media

Pirates of Penzance

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Short takes

Not recommended under 5; parental guidance recommended 5-8 due to violence, the length of the film, and language and humour that is difficult for children to understand.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Pirates of Penzance
  • a review of Pirates of Penzance completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 23 July 2015.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not recommended due to violence, the length of the film, and language and humour that is difficult for children to understand
Children 5 to 8 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, the length of the film, and language and humour that is difficult for children to understand
Children 8 and over 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: Pirates of Penzance
Consumer advice lines: Exempt from Classification - film of a stage show
Length 150 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Pirates of Penzance is a Mike Leigh film of a British National Opera production of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic comedy opera.

On his 21st birthday, Frederic is freed from his accidental apprenticeship to a band of pirates and decides to stop being a pirate and live an honest life. On his way from the pirate ship, he meets a sweet girl named Mabel and her many sisters. Mabel and Frederic fall in love and plan to be married.

Their plans are thwarted when the Pirate King finds a loophole in Frederic’s contract and Frederic finds that he may have a duty to return to the pirates. What follows is a comedy of errors that follows Frederic’s bumbling attempts to decide where his duty lies: with Mabel or the Pirates. 

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.

Crime; being an orphan; kidnapping

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.

There is some violence in this movie, all played for comedy, including:

  • The pirates attack policemen with swords and guns, and the policemen hit the pirates with batons.
  • The Pirate King holds a knife to the throat of the Major General
  • The pirates try to kidnap the Mabel and her sisters and force them into marriage

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.

Children in this age group may be scared of the pirates and their attempts to kidnap the young women

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 scared of the pirates and their attempts to kidnap the young women

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.

Nothing of concern

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.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

None

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Frederic has never seen a young woman before. When he meets Mabel and her sisters he talks about how beautiful they are.
  • Mabel and Frederic flirt with each other
  • The pirates look at the girls suggestively

Nudity and sexual activity

Frederic and Mabel kiss

Use of substances

The pirates drink alcohol and get drunk in one scene

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

Pirates of Penzance is a live opera production of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic that has been filmed. It is a witty comedy of misunderstanding and confusion, with quite a lot of the humour being based on wordplay and the implications of Frederic’s leap year birthday. It is therefore likely to be enjoyed by adults and older children.

Because it is a film of a live performance, the movie is approximately 150 minutes long, and includes the overture and a 20 minute interval. The length and the Victorian language make it a difficult movie for young children to sit through and understand, and younger children may also be scared by the pirates and some scenes of violence.  It is therefore not recommended for children under five, and parental guidance is recommended for children between the ages of five and eight who may need some of the humour and the plot explained to them.

The main messages from this movie are to keep your promises and to always to follow your conscience.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • loyalty
  • integrity
  • honesty

 This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children real-life issues, such as:

  • The consequences of violence and crime
  • The consequences of not fulfilling a promise

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