It’s movie season in Minnesota. It’s Option A for cold-weather climates. This season, our family is in an interesting era for appropriateness and interest-level for movie-going. I’ve had my eye on the PG-13 movies for years, even more so now that my daughter is 11 and my son is nine. Just maybe they’re old enough to see some PG-13 movies. I push the boundaries because I’ve paid my PG dues for seven years now.
I’ve seen everything from Happy Feet (my daughter’s first movie in a theater when she was four) to Yogi Bear (2010) and Rio (2011) (don’t bother seeing Rio 2; 2014) to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) (don’t bother seeing Cloudy 2). I guess I should be thanking my kids. There were some great films along the way. Their dialogue remains part of our vocabulary and voices inspired by movies like Cars, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Ratatouille and more recently The Lego Movie.
We own a modest amount of movies on DVD, but I prefer the theater experience. It used to be that my kids really didn’t have a say in the matter of movie selection. I’d choose a movie, they’d happily go along. Now, I have to make a case for the movie. The little critics both have to watch the trailer and it goes up for a vote. Often times, I lose. Their movie over mine or not to see one at all. Sometimes Calvin, my son, will cave with a little pressure because he’s craving popcorn or Gummy Bears. Truth.
A few months ago we saw Captain America based on a family vote as our collective second choice among a list of movies. I went into it with the expectation of seeing yet another superhero action-packed movie. I was pleasantly surprised.The kids both liked it too. It was PG-13, but I still felt it was suitable for them. I thought back to a few PG movies that felt PG-13 to me, like Where the Wild Things Are. Everyone has their own opinion on what’s appropriate, but websites like Is This Movie Suitable and CommonSense help parents sort out movie subject matter, so parents can determine appropriateness. It’s still a bit of a gamble.
The next gamble I took occurred last week when I stumbled on The 100 Foot Journey. No, it wasn’t PG-13, merely PG. Critics and audiences alike gave stars freely. As I read reviews other elements aligned. My daughter takes French, the movie takes place in France. The family in the film is from India with an accent we’re very fond of trying to replicate based on several viewings of Life of Pi. My case was built, but could I convince the kids to go?
My son was an adamant no when I first pitched the movie to him on a Tuesday afternoon. Then he studied the trailer, paused a moment and said sure, we can go. My daughter was swept away from her homework and en route to the Riverview Theater, she watched the trailer. She was an easier sell. This drama film fell into a divergent category outside of our norm. Plus this film runs 124 minutes (as opposed to our usual PG average around 90-100 minutes). I crossed my fingers that it would all go well. Otherwise, who knows when I’d earn their trust back.
This film was a good gamble. All three of us enjoyed it and I found myself wishing for more films like this. The characters were so believable. Every element from culinary to scenery (South France and Paris) enticed me. The family feud was full of life lessons played out meaningful ways. And most meaningful to me: to produce a film with passion and deep context, without the swearing and sexual content that accompanies most dramas of this type. It was simply refreshing and uplifting.
The kids’ review: my son caught that Steven Spielberg co-produced it (with Oprah Winfrey for DreamWorks Pictures) and that meant something to him. He said something like, yeah, well Spielberg produced it, it has to be a great movie. My daughter replayed a few scenes in the car ride home. She thought the relationship between Helen Mirren and Om Puri most curious as their characters cleverly take their status from hate to love.
It was a good adventure in film for this family. What movies are you parents taking your tweens to this season? We are open to recommends.