Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Worrying too much about kids at the movies

There's been an awful lot of fuss in the media lately about whether Spike Jonze's film Where the Wild Things Are (reviewed here) is too intense for kids. USA Today devoted this much-commented upon article to the subject. A blogger at EW seemed a bit surprised that she took her kids to the movie and it caused them very little consternation.

And the talk isn't just about Where the Wild Things Are. This post on the (mostly) Disney-devoted Web site Jim Hill media wonders aloud if Robert Zemeckis' animated version of A Christmas Carol is too intense for the little ones.

The overriding problem to me seems to sheer parental laziness.  Where the Wild Things Are and A Christmas Carol are both rated PG. That should be your first clue that these aren't the sorts of movies design with a yippy-skippy! attitude. But (cue deep trailer voice) in a world where parents blithely take their kids to R-rated features, such ignorance is not exactly surprising.

News flash, folks: There's this amazing tool called the Internet that makes it really easy to find out information about movies. One of the most helpful I've seen is Screen It, which gives you very detailed information about the content of a movie, and most commendably, reviews the movies APART from whether they're appropriate for kids or not. Here's their take on Where the Wild Things Are, which I find I cannot abbreviate to Wild Things without conjuring up images of a movie most inappropriate for children.

Second  tip? Trust your child. There are always exceptions, but generally speaking, I think kids are made of sterner stuff than we often realize. So many expect them to crumble into bawling blobs at even the slightest provocation, and more often than not, it doesn't happen. After all, Disney has been traumatizing children for generations with its G-rated fare, and I don't think the mouse has created TOO many strait-jacket models.

While I'm loath to give Access Hollywood kudos, I loved this quote in USA Today:

"(Where the Wild Things Are) shouldn't be a surprise to anyone," says film critic Scott Mantz of Access Hollywood. "You can't hire a visionary director and expect his movie to be another Alvin and the Chipmunks."

Do a little research. Know your kid. Trust your kid. It's called being a parent.


Scott Copeland said...

My daughter is 6 years old. She loved Where the Wild Things Are. She spent the rest of the weekend building her own fort in our living room. She is an amazingly imaginative child, and I think understood the film's flights of fancy as just that.

Allison Dickson said...

I agree completely. I think most children or "family" films are dumbed down pieces of crap that I really wouldn't want my kid watching because I actually want to instill a sense of good taste. I very much look forward to seeing Where the Wild Things Are as well as taking my kids to see it.

Furthermore, I think there is nothing wrong by a kid getting a little scared, sad, or even a little emotionally wrecked by a movie. It has a way of paving the way for talking about bigger issues that the movie relates to and helps, I think, bring families closer together as well as teach children that not everything is toilet humor and schmaltzy happy endings.