Studio: Unapix Entertainment
Director(s): Sean McNamara
Cast: Henry Winkler, Jessica Alba, Randy Quaid, Tim Redwine
Genre: Family and Kids
Run Time: 99 minutes
Theatrical Release: 01/05/1999
MPAA Rating: PG
MPAA Explanation: for action/violence, mischief and mild language
Common Sense Says: Kids will laugh at lame story with lots of cartoon violence.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that P.U.N.K.S. is a predictable "kids-face-bullies" offering with continuous cartoon violence: stun guns, electric shocks, brawling, chases, falls, threats, and gunshots. No one is severely injured or killed, though in one key scene the young hero's father is really badly beaten. Scientists are shown experimenting on sedated prisoners and other unwilling subjects. Mild insults are plentiful, but there's no swearing. Product placement is nonstop. Though scientific advancement is at the core of the story, any relationship to real science or technological information is absolutely accidental.
- Families can discuss what it feels like to be bullied. How can you deal with kids who tease or torment you or other kids? Why do you think some kids bully others?
- How can you tell when the violence in a movie is meant to be funny? In this film both kids and adults are subjected to multiple electric shocks and stun guns. What would happen if those were real?
What's the story?
Good guy scientist Patrick Utley (Randy Quaid) has created a robotic "augmentor" that will be able to alleviate paralysis by stimulating otherwise unworkable muscles -- a monumental medical achievement. His boss at Crow Industries (Henry Winkler) wants to get rid of Utley and, instead of using the augmentor to benefit mankind, sell the device to the highest foreign bidder as a weapon. Desperate for his overworked father's attention, Drew Utley (Tim Redwine) spends a day at the lab and discovers Crow's evil plot. He calls upon a team of his misfit friends -- a mechanic (Jessica Alba in an early teen role), a computer nerd, and a con artist -- to save his father and the augmentor. The kids sneak into the lab, steal the invention, and comic mayhem ensues as they attempt to save the day.
Is it any good?
P.U.N.K.S. is beyond silly; special effects are amateurish; logic is nonexistent. There's not a single adult with a modicum of common sense to be found. Highly classified government secrets are unprotected; industrial facilities are unsecured. Electrical shocks are administered countless times to a variety of subjects.Arch and ridiculous, Quaid and Winkler overact with relish -- kids will find Winkler hilarious when he's attached to the augmentor. Thsi is a definite time waster with laughs to redeem it, slightly.
The Good Stuff
Messages: Stand up to bullies, both as kids and as adults. Loyalty, courage, and teamwork lead to success. The dangers of experimenting on prisoners or unwilling participants is dealt with comically.
Educational Value: Meant to entertain not inform.
Role Models: Adults are all bumbling victims, well-meaning but clueless parents, or greedy tyrants. Boys learn that girls can be bright, strong, and resourceful (teen girl is mechanical ace and courageous teammate). Lots of ethnic diversity.
What to watch out for
Violence & scariness: Cartoon action and comic violence throughout. Characters are punched, stunned, and shocked by an electric force, intimidated, shot at, chased, and thrown to the ground. Exaggerated fights include wrestling, choke holds, and an out-of-control strongman wreaking havoc in a lab. One scene contains a real fight with the hero's father badly beaten. Another finds a young boy on a bicycle careening through freeway traffic.
Sexy stuff: Not an issue
Language: No swearing, but insults are heard occasionally ("nerd," "dumb"). A character grabs his crotch.
Consumerism: Products identified: Snyder's Pretzels, Cap'n Crunch, Gold's Gym, Uinsureco, Pennzoil, AT&T, X-Men, Scout automobile, GIRO helmet, Le Coq Sportif, and King Putt Golf.
Drinking, drugs & smoking: A woman smokes in a bar. The young heroes pretend to be adults and go into a bar. No alcohol is consumed.