Movie Review

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Black Sheep

reviewed by Dr. Barbara Mack Ph.D.

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Self-Help Parent Meter (Scale based on PG-13 films)
0 = Little or none      5 = Great amount or highly

Sex: (2)
Profanity: (5)
Violence: (3)
Fright: (0)

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"Black Sheep" (PG-13) has its humorous moments, but its profanity and other problematic areas keep it from being a good family film.

Mike Donnelly (Chris Farley) adores his older brother Al (Tim Matheson), who is running for Governor of Washington. Mike works at the recreation center in his small hometown, but makes time to help his brother's campaign. Mike has a good heart and means well, but whenever he gets involved, something goes wrong. The campaign truck he drives goes out of control and crashes into the local theater while his brother is giving a speech nearby. When Mike stops to tell a group of kids that they should not take drugs, he is photographed drinking beer with them. That photo is used against Al in the dirty campaign being run by Governor Tracy (Christine Ebersole). To protect himself from his brother's foibles, Al sends Steve Dodds (David Spade) to watch over Mike.

With Steve at his side, Mike continues to help in the campaign. Mike is fired from his job at the recreation center because of the publicity of the beer episode. The unethical Governor Tracy then arranges for two men to set the recreation center on fire and blame Mike for the arson. Al believes that his brother is innocent, but sends him and Steve to a remote cabin to continue the campaign in a sparsely populated county. The pair continue to face problem after problem--a pesky bat, a pail of snakes, a car of delinquent boys who shoot a fire extinguisher at them, a mentally deranged Vietnam veteran and a boulder that destroys their cabin. Calamities continue to befall Mike as the film runs its course. In the end, the "schlump" becomes the hero, as he helps his brother to become Governor.

The profanity in "Black Sheep" is pervasive and used in the service of comedy. This may give children and adolescents the impression that it is generally acceptable. The film also contains some sexual innuendos that are tied to the profanity. Besides arson and the threat of being shot with an automatic weapon, most of the violence is slapstick. Children are supposed to laugh when people are hurt. This lack of empathy and denial of the pain of others are not characteristics that we should encourage in our children.

There are two scenes involving drugs. In one, Mike and Steve get high when nitrous oxide leaks into their car. In another, a group of musicians are smoking marijuana. In both cases the participants happily enjoy the feeling of being high, and there are no negative consequences.

The relationship between the two brothers is one of great love. The older brother is much smarter, more attractive and successful than his younger sibling, and there is no envy. These brothers are exemplary in their mutual affection and support, although their behavior does seem a bit far fetched. In terms of stereotypes, the female politician, a Vietnam veteran and African American musicians are all portrayed negatively.

"Black Sheep" will appeal to some children because of its stars and slapstick humor, but parents would be wise to take their offspring to better fare.

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