It’s 1929 in New York – prohibition, the ‘speakeasies’, and mobster gang wars are in full swing. Fat Sam (John Cassisi) is in trouble because his arch enemy, Dandy Dan (Martin Lev), is taking over the gangster scene with the help of a new weapon, the ‘splurge gun’, a cream-filled gun that is much more effective at eliminating competitors than the old-school cream-pie-in-the-face.
Caught in the middle of all of this is Bugsy Malone (Scott Baio). Bugsy wants to help Fat Sam, but he gets distracted trying to win the heart of Blousey Brown (Florrie Dugger), a talented singer at Fat Sam’s speakeasy, while also fending off the advances of seductive songstress Tallulah (Jodie Foster).
Children in adult roles; 1920s New York mobster scene; gang wars; musical
Bugsy Malone has a lot of violence, but be aware that this is a spoof of serious gangster movies. All weapons are replaced with cream pies and replica guns that fire cream. This leads to a lot of absurd and funny scenes, but these cream-filled weapons still represent real weapons, which are used to seriously harm and get rid of enemies. Here are some examples:
- Four attackers cold-bloodedly ‘assassinate’ a gang member by firing at him with splurge guns.
- Dandy Dan’s men attack Fat Sam’s speakeasy. The men run fire splurge guns, which also hit civilians.
- Cream pies are the weapon of choice before the introduction of the splurge gun. People get hit in the face by cream pies.
- The movie ends in one massive ‘cream massacre’.
- There are other violent scenes, including when some boys attack Bugsy.
Bugsy Malone has some sexual references. For example:
- At the speakeasy there are regular dance and singing performances. The dancers wear quite revealing outfits and make seductive and sexy gestures and dance moves.
- During her main performance, Tallulah is very flirtatious. She moves towards the male audience and sings about how they ‘don’t have to be lonely’.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Bugsy Malone shows some use of substances. For example:
- Although it’s clear that the actors aren’t really drinking alcohol, the colourful beverages represent the alcoholic drinks that were illegally produced and consumed during prohibition.
- There is frequent ‘alcohol’ consumption.
- A big part of the gangsters’ business is the illegal production and distribution of ‘alcohol’.
Nudity and sexual activity
Bugsy Malone has some nudity and sexual activity. For example, some speakeasy dancers wear extremely short pants and deep necklines.
Bugsy Malone has some name-calling, including ‘dummies’, ‘dirty rat’ and ‘idiots’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
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 movie offers original family entertainment.
Parental guidance is highly recommended for viewers under 10 years. That’s because the movie’s novelty comes from children acting as adults, so the child and teenage actors do things that wouldn’t normally be appropriate for children. Also, young viewers need to understand that the weapons might 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 girls’ outfits and behaviour aren’t appropriate for children.
These are the main messages from this movie:
- You need to stay up to date to be successful.
- You can’t resolve things with violence, and it’s always best to make peace and cooperate.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include friendship, creativity and determination.
Bugsy Malone could also give you the chance to talk about the real-life consequences of behaviour like breaking the law.