Australian Council on Children and the Media

Bugsy Malone

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Short takes

Not suitable under 7; parental guidance to 9 (frequent trivialised violence and adult themes including flirtatious behaviour, alcohol consumption and illegal business)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Bugsy Malone
  • a review of Bugsy Malone completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 May 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 7 Not suitable due to frequent trivialised violence and indicated adult themes (flirtatious behaviour, alcohol consumption, illegal business).
Children aged 7–9 Parental guidance recommended due to frequent trivialised violence and indicated adult themes (flirtatious behaviour, alcohol consumption, illegal business).
Children aged 10 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: Bugsy Malone
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: The content is very mild in impact.
Length 89 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

It's 1929 in New York – prohibition, illegal entertainment hotspots, so-called "speakeasies", and mobster gang wars are in full swing. In particular, Fat Sam (John Cassissi) is in trouble because his arch enemy, Dandy Dan (Martin Lev), is taking over the gangster scene with the help of a novel weapon, the "splurge gun", a cream-filled gun that is much more effective in eliminating competitors than the old-school cream-pie-in-the-face. Caught in the middle of all of this is Bugsy Malone (Scott Baio), who wants to help Fat Sam to defend his stance, but gets distracted trying to win the heart of Blousey Brown (Florrie Dugger) – a talented singer at Fat Sam's speakeasy – while also fending off seductive songstress Tallulah's (Jodie Foster) advances.

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.

Children in adult roles; 1920's New York mobster scene; gang wars; musical.

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 a lot of violence in this movie, however, parents need to be aware that in this spoof of serious gangster movies, all weapons are replaced with cream pies and replica guns that fire cream. While this leads to a lot of absurd-funny scenes, these cream-filled weapons still represent real weapons, which are used to seriously harm and eliminate enemies. Below are some examples:

  • A gang member is "assassinated" cold-bloodedly by four attackers who fire at him with splurge guns.
  • Fat Sam's speakeasy is attacked with Dandy Dan's men running in firing splurge guns, also targeting and hitting civilians.
  • People get hit in the face with cream pies (which represent the traditional weapon of choice before the introduction of the splurge gun).
  • The film ends in one massive "cream massacre”.
  • There are also some other scenes containing violence, for example when Bugsy gets overwhelmed by a group of boys and gets mugged.

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 the age of five, including the following:

  • It is unlikely that children in this age group would be able to follow the story.

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.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Children in this age group might be confused as to whether people actually die / get seriously hurt when they are shot with the splurge guns.

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 further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • At the speakeasy there are regular dance and singing performances with the dancers wearing quite revealing 1930s outfits and making seductive / sexy gestures and dance moves.
  • During Tallulah's main performance, she is very flirtatious, goes up to the male audience and sings that they, "don't have to be lonely".

Nudity and sexual activity

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

  • Some speakeasy dancers wear extremely short pants and deep necklines.

Use of substances

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

  • Even though it is obvious that the actors are not really drinking alcohol, the colourful beverages represent alcoholic drinks that are illegally produced and consumed during times of prohibition.
  • There is frequent "alcohol" consumption.
  • A big part of the mobster gangsters' business is the illegal production and distribution of "alcohol".

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Dummies
  • Dirty rat
  • Idiots.

In a nutshell

Bugsy Malone is a quirky 1976 mobster musical. With a phenomenal all-child cast including a teenage Jodie Foster, catchy musical tunes, and lots of creativity, this film definitely offers novel entertainment for the family. Parental guidance is highly recommended for viewers under 10, pointing out that this whole film is based on children acting as adults, and thus the child, tween, and teenage actors engage in activities that would not be appropriate for children. Young viewers need to understand that the weapons may be filled with cream but still represent gang violence, that some characters are extremely funny and likeable but are involved in criminal activity, and that some of the outfits and behaviours of some of the female cast would not be appropriate in children.

The main messages from this movie are that one needs to keep up with the beat of the time to stay successful, but at the end of the day nothing good comes from fighting fire with fire, and one is better off to make peace and cooperate.

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

  • friendship
  • creativity
  • working for one's dreams.

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

  • Breaking the law.

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