As a sometimes-movie critic, I'm comfortable telling people what films they should and shouldn't watch. With my own children, however, I have no idea.
Movies are an important thing in my life, and I want to share them with my sons, ages 9 and 11. The problem is that I'm never sure when the appropriate time is to show them favorite films from the past.
Yes, I know that "Star Wars" is fine, and "Scarface" is not. There's a lot of gray area between those two, however. I'm willing and anxious to get advice from any parents out there. When can I take some of the old VHS tapes off the shelf and show them to the kids?
Obviously every kid is different and matures at a different speed. What's right for one 11-year-old isn't right for another. My friend showed his young children "Jaws" with no ill effects; my kids would never swim again.
One problem is that over the years we can forget certain details of a movie. Suddenly you can be hit with a wall of obscenity or sexual innuendo which you'd rather not explain yet.
I almost popped "Caddyshack" into the DVD player for the kids, thinking they'd love that rascally gopher. Then I watched it again myself, and sure enough, there's a reason or two for the R rating.
This, however, is far from a simple question of how much violence/sex/obscenity is age appropriate. The bigger question is are the kids mature enough to appreciate the intricacies of the plot, the subtleties of the humor. If I hit them with a fantastic movie before they're ready for it, the film may be ruined for them forever.
That is why I've never shown them "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." If they end up not liking that one, I might have to trade them in for new kids. Recently, I played "Airplane," and the reaction was only so-so. Surely I didn't show it to them too soon?
Movies like "Star Wars," "Ghostbusters" and "Back to the Future" were easy decisions. I figured if they could handle the scares of the "Harry Potter" movies, they could handle "The Lord of the Rings." "Mars Attacks!" was a big hit.
Currently, I'm going back and forth most on "Stand By Me." It's rated R — considerable bad language, though nothing the kids haven't heard from their, uh, mother, when she watches the Red Sox — and there's the matter of a rotting corpse. But it's also one of the best coming-of-age movies ever.
Are the kids old enough to roll on the floor over "Groundhog Day"? Is it time for them to partake in Mel Brooks — probably not "Blazing Saddles," but at least "Young Frankenstein"?
Are they old enough to begin experiencing war movies? They've seen war in the Autobots-vs.-Decepticons sense, but how about something more realistic? "Saving Private Ryan" would certainly convince them that peace was the way to go. Perhaps break them in with something more primitive. I'm thinking "Zulu" or "Glory"?
Would "Taps" prepare them for both war and a future at boarding school?
Should I show them "Porky's," which taught me everything I know about human sexuality and relationships?
Where should I go with sports movies? They've seen most of the kid-friendly ones, such as "The Bad News Bears" and "The Sandlot." "Hoosiers" actually went over well with my 9-year-old. "Remember the Titans" next? Is "Field of Dreams" too emotionally complex? How old do you have to be to appreciate "Rocky," not to mention "Rocky III"?
My 11-year-old earned his Zombie Survival merit badge at Boy Scout camp this summer, yet he's never seen a zombie movie. Should I show him one? What won't give him nightmares until he's 43? "Night of the Living Dead" is the creepy classic. "28 Days Later"? Probably should start him with slow zombies. "Zombieland?" Comic zombies might help.
Sadly, I realize it's too early to show my children "The Shawshank Redemption" or "Goodfellas" or "Deliverance" or "Braveheart" or "The Evil Dead." Those, and everything made by Quentin Tarantino, will have to wait.
I don't, however, want my kids to be stuck watching the Smurfs or the next family-friendly comedy starring Eddie Murphy and the Rock. Come on parents, help me out.
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