What’s Up, Doc? parents guide

What’s Up, Doc? Parent Guide

A screwball comedy that will keep audiences laughing...and quoting the best lines for years to come.

Overall B+

Howard Bannister (Ryan O'Neal) and his fiancee, Eunice Burns (Madeline Kahn) are visiting San Francisco to compete for a research grant. While there, they get entangled with jewel thieves, stolen top secret documents, and, most dangerous of all, a chaos-causing young woman named Judy (Barbra Streisand).

Release date March 10, 1972

Violence B-
Sexual Content B
Profanity A-
Substance Use B+

Why is What’s Up, Doc? rated G? The MPAA rated What’s Up, Doc? G

Run Time: 94 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Four suitcases. One contains a woman’s clothing. Another contains musical igneous rocks. A third carries top secret government files. And the final one holds valuable jewels. When the four bags (and their owners) wind up at the same hotel, a chain of events begins that leads to chaos, confusion, and four cars bobbing in San Francisco Bay.

The story begins with Dr. Howard Bannister (Ryan O’Neal), a musicologist from Iowa, who has come to the Golden Gate city to try for a research grant that will allow him to travel and find proof for his theories about the musical properties of rocks. Accompanying him (and staying in a separate hotel room) is his fiancée, Eunice Burns, played with sheer comic genius by the incomparable Madeline Kahn. Howard is so passive and so bored with his own life that he is the next thing to catatonic – but Eunice’s drive and micromanaging skills keep him moving. Eunice orders Howard down to the hotel drugstore to get some aspirin, and that’s where everything changes.

In the pharmacy, Howard meets Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand), who strikes up a conversation, refers to him as “Steve”, and sets in motion a train of events that end with her ripping his suit jacket. The two come face to face with Eunice, who is not amused. A frustrated Howard demands Judy go away and heads to his hotel room to prepare for the banquet being hosted by the Larrabee Foundation. Viewers can easily imagine his horror when he enters the banquet hall, only to find that Judy is pretending to be Eunice…and has completely fascinated Frederick Larrabee (Austin Pendleton), the man who will determine the winner of the grant.

As Howard grapples with the moral and relationship dilemmas he faces, other hotel guests are dealing with complex problems. A CIA agent is trying to reclaim stolen documents; hotel staff are trying to steal fabulous gems, and a wealthy woman is trying to discover who has stolen them. These plot lines all intersect at Mr. Larrabee’s home and the movie’s denouement will include kidnappings, a brawl at the mansion, and the funniest car chase ever filmed.

Parents can be comfortable in showing What’s Up, Doc? to their children. Its G rating is a bit generous – there is enough slapstick violence that it should probably be a PG film. That being said, the movie is so farcical, so lighthearted that only the most sensitive children will find it frightening. The movie really only has one significant issue and that is Judy’s behavior: she repeatedly intrudes in Howard’s life, without his consent and after he has explicitly and repeatedly told her to leave. Were their genders reversed, her character would be considered a stalker and his would be seen as a potential victim. But in this movie, the whole situation is played for laughs.

Ultimately, laughs are what this film is about and it is chock full of them. From Judy’s insouciant impersonations of Eunice, to Eunice’s serious (but hysterical) lines of dialogue, to the unforgettable car chase with the Chinese dragon scene, What’s Up, Doc? is a production that will keep audiences of all ages laughing…and quoting the best lines for years to come.

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Starring Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, Madeline Kahn. Running time: 94 minutes. Theatrical release March 10, 1972. Updated

What’s Up, Doc?
Rating & Content Info

Why is What’s Up, Doc? rated G? What’s Up, Doc? is rated G by the MPAA

Violence:   A pedestrian inadvertently causes a motorcycle accident and a car accident. There are a few scenes where men break into hotel rooms and steal suitcases. A woman grabs the back of a man’s suit jacket, which rips up the seam. A man repeatedly trips a woman; she hits him and bites his leg. A man is told to steal jewels from a woman and to make love to her if she wakes up: he says he would rather kill her. A man talks about jumping out of a window. A man goes out a window and walks around the building on the window ledge. A man forces a woman out onto a 17th floor window ledge. When she tries to come back inside, he pushes her back and she nearly falls. A man crashes through a hotel window and into a room. A TV catches fire. Firefighters use axes to cut through hotel room doors. A woman is threatened by some criminals. She is abducted. A man is pushed into a sculptor. Men point guns at a crowd and demand suitcases. Men have a fistfight. No injuries are seen in any of the conflicts. A man is pulled downstairs, hitting his head on each step. A woman hits a man with a table sculpture. A man is hit in the face with a pie. Guns are fired in the air on a couple of occasions. A man is hit by falling art. A couple steal a bike. Men force three people into a car at gunpoint. Cars hit a parked car. A multi-car accident is shown. People steal costumes from a store. They also steal a car from outside a wedding. Four cars drive into San Francisco Bay; some police officers fall in.
Sexual Content:   There is a coded joke about male genitalia. A woman places a man’s hand on her chest so he can feel her heartbeat. A woman is shown reading a book entitled “The Sensuous Woman”.  A man undresses in his hotel room: he is seen wearing nothing but underwear. A woman is seen wearing nothing but a towel: she bends over the man in his underwear. A man and woman kiss passionately. The camera cuts away but sexual activity is implied. A person jokes that it is impossible that a woman could have been threatened with sexual assault.
Profanity: One term of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use:   Rare, minor social drinking. A judge takes lots of medication; ostensibly for his cold.

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What’s Up, Doc? Parents' Guide

Why do you think Judy behaves like she does? Why do you think she keeps getting involved in Howard’s life? Do you think her behavior is appropriate or excusable?

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Home Video

Related home video titles:

What’s Up, Doc? continues the tradition of screwball comedies such as It Happened One Night, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Pillow Talk.