Parent Movie Reviews and Two Questions for You

My 3-year-old daughter is one-of-a-kind at her preschool. A couple weeks ago, some unauthorized chatter about Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie began at circle time. Initial attempts to squelch the buzz failed and the teacher quickly realized that to put the topic past them, she had to ask, "Okay, how many of you have seen the Bee Movie?"

My daughter was the only child who didn’t raise her hand.

As a baby, we avoided "educational" videos because we were concerned about negative effects on brain development. Today, my reaction to TV and film is, "We’ve gotten this far without it, so let’s see how far we can go."

It’s not for any religious or deep moral reason. I just figure if she’s okay, no need to rush things.

But that classroom poll got me thinking. At my daughter’s young age, I want to meter her exposure to certain imagery and ideas. Where will I go for a detailed film analysis? 

I’ve found three review sites that provide an itemized list of scenes involving sex, violence, profanity and so forth.

I avoided the many religious review websites "out there" because moral values are relative, with a wide variance in what’s considered acceptable.

The three sites I settled on appear to be secular, describing potentially negative content and leaving it to me to decide what’s appropriate.

I have two questions for you…

At what age did you first successfully sit your kid down to watch a 90-minute film?

If you’ve seen the Bee Movie (or Alvin and the Chipmunks) released in 2007, do these assessments do the film justice? (See below.) Any errors, omissions or ridiculousness?

Bee Movie:

  1. Screen It! (Detailed: tracks 15 categories of movie content).
  2. Kids-in-mind (Overview: tracks 3 categories of movie content).
  3. Common Sense Media (Overview: tracks 7 less detailed categories, and includes an opinionated review separate from the rankings).

Alvin and the Chipmunks:

  1. Kids-in-mind.
  2. Common Sense Media.
  3. Screen It!.


11 Responses to “Parent Movie Reviews and Two Questions for You”

  1. Ticia says:

    We took our two and a half year old boys to go see Underdog with their Grandma and Uncle. It was two adults per kid, and the boys spent most of the movie standing in front of us pointing at the screen and saying “dog!” “dog!” I’ll also note we took them to the dollar theater, because let’s face it, we weren’t up for paying full price for a kid’s movie. We’ll probably see the new Veggietales movie at the theaters as well.

    December 24th, 2007 at 11:27 am

  2. Nicole says:

    My son is almost two (in February) and he’s just getting to the point where he’ll sit and watch the full movie Cars. He is obsessed with any type of vehicle toy (and 90% of his day he is entranced to play and line up and drive his cars all over the house) and he’ll watch the Cars movie in and out of playing. I wouldn’t take him to a theatre, though, to watch a movie- that’d probably be a disaster.

    As far as the baby videos, I always see studies and articles saying how it stunts vocabulary growth. I allowed my son to watch the Einstein shows as an infant (and he still occasionally watches them). It was a 30 minute life saver to allow me a break to take a shower, etc etc. In our case, I wouldn’t say they stunted his vocabulary at all. At 9 months old he had about 5 or 6 words he could say. At 11 months he said over 15 words. At his 14 month doctors appt they asked “If he had about 4 or 5 words he said.” I told them he had over 40 words… I had lost count. By 16-18 months he was putting together 2-3 word “sentences” and now at 22 months he’s talking in sentences. He repeats and picks up new words everywhere. Of course, its not like we EVER sat him in front of the tv 24/7- we interact and play and teach him about things all around us. So, I suppose children who have parents who are not very interactive and let the tv raise them would probably have a lower vocabulary.

    Anyhow, that is just my two cents on the baby videos. I think tv and vidoes are all in how you parent OUTSIDE of watching an occasional show. If you never talk to your child, never explain the world around them, of course they will have a stunted vocabulary- no matter if they watch tv or not.

    December 25th, 2007 at 7:27 am

  3. Jeremiah says:

    Our daughter Z, now three and a half, just watched her first full-length film, Yellow Submarine, for the first time a couple of days ago, with me at her side, at home on the couch. We won’t be taking her to the theater for years yet, if only for the abysmally loud volumes they insist on playing films at, as well as the fact that we really aren’t comfortable having her watch something that we haven’t seen without her first.

    December 25th, 2007 at 11:31 am

  4. Chief Family Officer says:

    My oldest will be 3 in the spring, and I don’t see taking him to a theater anytime soon, even when he’s actually ready to sit through a full movie (which he isn’t yet) – primarily, as Jeremiah mentioned, because of the volume. I think if your daughter is feeling left out but you don’t want to take her to the movie, you might get a book based on the movie. It probably won’t tell the full story, but it’ll get her familiar with the characters so she can at least follow what her friends are saying and they can even fill her in on the parts she missed.

    December 25th, 2007 at 8:19 pm

  5. Elizabeth Z says:

    Our daughter has been able to watch a full length movie, under the right conditions (i.e. at home, while running a fever or exhausted) since about 2, but has only seen one movie in a movie theater (Ratatouille, which she loved). Partly this is because she’s seen parts of supposedly kid-safe movies like “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story” on airplanes (Air New Zealand, we love you and your video on demand in coach). She couldn’t stand either of them — too scary. At 2.5 she had no problem figuring out that Nemo’s mother dies before the opening titles, even though she wasn’t listening to the sound track. No go. And Toy Story is almost nothing but one long character-in-jeopardy scene after another.

    December 26th, 2007 at 9:15 pm

  6. Lindsay says:

    My daughter is 31/2 and has seen a couple movies at the theater. The first one being Charlotte’s Web which she got ancy at the end but did great. The second time was for kidtoons, every month at a local theater and the kids can go for 3.50$. The first one we saw was Strawberry Shortcake and then we saw a Carebears movie. We recently saw Alvin and the Chipmunks. She loves going to the movies and eating popcorn.

    December 27th, 2007 at 10:10 am

  7. kim says:

    I didn’t take my son the movie theater until he was 5 1/2. I saw the movie first to make sure I really wanted him to see it. Then as he got older it was our treat Mom and Son to the movies on the Friday night it opened; but only movies that I approved of and I can tell you that sometime PG 13 is not what your want you child to see…

    He is now 15 years old and he is the only kid I know that is not allowed to watch rated “R” movies and has his computer and tv parentally controlled.

    I just started letting him get rate “teen” games for his play station no “M” allowed. He found out on Christmas day that my brother’s 11 year old son has “M” game he has wanted for a long time. I asked them about it and he was like whatever; I had read the back of the game in question it said,”strong language, violence and strong sexual content”. What

    Because of this I believe it has made my son an amazing reader, he loved legos, lincoln logs and anything that he has to put an effort toward to make it happen. At 14 he averages a book a week and that doesn’t include what he has to read for school.

    Parenting is never easy especially when you when your child feels left out because he can’t do something that it seems everyone else is doing. I always tell him that this is the way I want to raise my children and when he has his own he can decide how he wants to raise them and to not be to surprised if it is very similar to how he is being raised!

    Sorry for the long post this is something that I am very passionate about and wish more parents would be. In the long run my son knows that I am doing this because I love him.

    December 27th, 2007 at 12:05 pm

  8. Tara says:

    I took my daughter (who is 2 and a half now), to see “Cars” when she was a little over a year and she was only interested in the musical parts. I took her to see “Ratatouille” when she was 2 and she mostly talked about the “mouse” on the screen and then spilled my drink on me so we left. She still doesn’t have the attention span for a feature length movie.

    As far as TV goes, she has 2 shows that she’s interested in, “The Wiggles” and “This is Emily Yeung.” The first is 20 minutes long and the second is 5 minutes long. Outside of those shows she couldn’t care less about TV. She’s far more interested in playing or looking at books or being read to.

    December 27th, 2007 at 11:45 pm

  9. STL Mom says:

    My four-and-a-half-year-old son still has not been to a full-length movie in a movie theater, although he has watched entire movies on DVD at home or on a plane. He barely made it through a 40-minute IMAX movie last spring, so I doubt he is ready for a nearly two-hour event (with previews, even a kids’ movie is usually that long) .
    However, he was great during his first live theater experience this week. I think theater is easier to handle because it isn’t as loud, it usually isn’t as scary, and it is more engaging because it is real people in three dimensions, not a screen. Also, the intermission helps.
    I think my daughter’s first full movie theater experience was at age 6, watching “Over the Hedge”. She spent half the movie in my lap because she was so scared that the bear would eat the cute little animals. And this is a girl who had already watched Spiderman and other scary movies at home! I think for some kids the movie theater experience can be very overwhelming. Why hurry?
    p.s. I hope the teacher apologized for asking who had seen Bee Movie!

    December 30th, 2007 at 10:01 am

  10. Sarah says:

    Our two-year old can watch about 15 minutes of continuous programming. He has never seen a film and I don’t imagine he will watch one for awhile. He watches Dan Zanes videos as well as other random clips from YouTube like planes taking off or TGVs flying by.

    He does really well at the theatre though. We look for 30-45 minute performances for him and he usually makes it all the way to the end.

    Books on tape are always a good alternative too. We listen to a lot of books – sometimes with the book and sometimes without.

    January 4th, 2008 at 5:26 am

  11. Andrea says:

    We follow your basic approach on music and videos. My kids are now 5 and 3 and occasionally they watch a video like Diego or Blue’s Clues or Charlie & Lola.

    I have taken the 5 yr old to a few G-rated movies in the past year. She enjoys them but finds it to be a very intense experience; long and loud. I am not sure my 3 yr old could really handle it yet, but he is a more active kid in general, too.

    We saw Alvin and the Chipmunks this week. I thought it was fine for the 5 and up crowd; silly, for sure. My daughter thought it was “scary,” in parts, probably because of the noise and the slapstick humor (dishes breaking, plenty of yelling, etc.) In talking to her about the movie afterwards, it was clear she missed a lot of the moral points of the story, but it did give us something to discuss.

    Anyway, thanks for the review links. I am not a prude about what my kids see, but I especially try to avoid violence in their movies, and the above-mentioned daughter is sensitive to anything even remotely scary or overly dramatic. I find a lot of my kids’ friends’ parents are much less concerned about it and will take their 5 yr olds to films I think are too much– for example,Over the Hedge, Spiderman, Star Wars, Scooby Doo (the movies are much darker than the TV shows).

    January 7th, 2008 at 8:35 am

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