Common Sense Media Says: Not for kids

Loopy, foul-mouthed drug comedy isn't meant for kids.


What Parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a two-hour celebration of drugs, foul language, and debauchery, with little or no consequences, redemption, or lessons learned. Lead character Raoul Duke (played by Johnny Depp before he became really popular with more mainstream audiences) is based on famous "Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson -- but there's little actual writing going on in the movie amid the fog of drugs, drinking, and swearing. Although little actual sex is shown, there's plenty of violent and depraved sexual imagery in the dialogue, yet another reason this movie absolutely isn't for kids. But for adults -- especially those already inducted into the Thompson cult -- the movie is a hilarious cult favorite.

Consumerism:Occasional brand names of alcohol (Wild Turkey, etc.) and car makes (Cadillac, etc.).


Drinking, drugs, & smoking:Excessive, constant drinking and drug use throughout the entire film. Characters drive under the influence, trash hotel rooms and rental cars, fail to turn up to work, leave unpaid hotel bills, and suffer little or no consequences for their actions. Drugs include cocaine, pot, acid, mescaline, pills, ether, a mention of opium, and -- in one scene -- some "adrenochrome," or human adrenaline. Drinks include beer, rum, tequila, and whisky. Somewhat ironically, there isn't much cigarette smoking.


Language:Incessant strong language permeates the film from beginning to end, including just about every word under the sun. Multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "t-ts," "bastard," "ass," "damn," "whore," "hell," "goddamn," "oh my God," "Jesus" (as an exclamation), "scum sucker," "swine," mentions of sodomy and castration, and racial slurs like "Spic."


Positive messages:The movie is a pure immersion into a few days of depraved behavior with no real point or consequences. The characters travel to Las Vegas to write a couple of magazine stories, but they mostly fail to accomplish that. Instead, they abuse their press privileges, act strangely and violently, consume a massive amount of drugs and alcohol, run out on hotel bills, abuse rental cars, and threaten and lie to others. At the end, no lesson is learned except that maybe the days of the counterculture are just about over.


Positive role models:The characters engage in various forms of debauchery withlittle or no lessons learned and no consequences for their actions. With his rebellious attitude and playful, cynical word usage, the real Hunter S. Thompson may be an inspiration for young writers, but these characters aren't. The Thompson-like lead character, "Raoul Duke," doesn't follow through on his assignments, and although his narration features some of Thompson's real-life writing, in the context of the movie, it only serves to celebrate the character's bad behavior.


Sex:Lewd and sometimes violent sex acts are discussed and described in the dialogue, but hardly anything is shown. A couple of Playboy-type centerfold pictures are briefly on view. Women are seen kissing in the background, and a male traffic cop asks to kiss the (also male) lead character.


Violence:Guns and knives are pulled but rarely used. A character flies into a violent drug rage, wielding a knife, but winds up locked in a bathroom. There's reckless, dangerous driving, as well as plenty of violence in the dialogue (including a description of gang rape), with characters threatening one another and playing out verbal scenarios of violence. In one sequence, the two lead characters discuss how to get rid of a young girl who's become a nuisance; the answer (though only implied) is unspeakably horrific.



What's the story?

Freelance journalist Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) travels to Las Vegas in 1971, accompanied by his friend/attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro). Duke has been assigned to cover a desert motorcycle race, but a drinking and drug binge causes him to miss most of the evnt. He tries to skip out on a trashed hotel room and an expensive bill when he learns that he's been assigned to another story -- a district attorney/police convention in another part of town. But he blows this story, too, due to another binge (although he manages to record most of his experience this time). In the end, he writes a book about the entire experience and what it meant in the grand scheme of things.

Is it any good?

As directed by Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits, 12 Monkeys), this seemingly pointless celebration of bad behavior is also a hilarious and crazily visual comedy for adults already inducted into the Hunter S. Thompson cult. The movie sets a bizarre, frantic pace and sustains it successfully for its entire running time. Gilliam's extraordinary camerawork -- as well as weird makeup and visual effects -- attempts to capture the feel of a real drug trip, as well as some imaginatively trashed hotel rooms afterward. (What is that brown liquid all over the floor?)In the lead role, Depp throws himself completely into Duke's thinly disguised Thompson's persona and delivers an amazing, hilarious performance. Del Toro is intense and rather frightening as the crazed Dr. Gonzo, and several recognizable faces -- including Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz, and more -- turn up in cameos. FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS definitely isn't for every taste, but adults (not kids!) who appreciate something out of the ordinary might enjoy it.