1) Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown Focuses on the disappointments and frustrations of Valentine's Day with sophistication and humor. Even though characters pine after unrequited love, the action and dialogue is handled with such a deft touch that it feels uplifting. The humor is universal enough to entertain the youngest viewers and parents alike. 2) Shrek Parents need to know that this movie is rated PG, but it includes some edgy humor directed at teens and adults. It's a shame that Hollywood finds it necessary to include this material in a movie that would be otherwise perfect family fare, but that's the economic reality of this era of moviemaking. The jokes teens and adults snicker at (like when Shrek wonders if the small Lord Farquaad is compensating for something with his very tall castle) will be over the heads of most younger kids, but parents should be ready for some questions. There's also plenty of potty humor and gross-out joke directed at kids – mostly based on the appalling personal habits of ogres. Scary scenes for young ones include fights with guards, villagers coming after Shrek with pitchforks, and a fire-breathing dragon (who turns nice when she falls for Donkey). A bird explodes and its eggs are eaten, and a character is eaten in one gulp by the dragon, but it's not graphic. 3) The Princess Bride Parents need to know that this quirky, funny fairy tale has quite a bit of action-style violence, including a torture machine, sword fights (one to the death), a death by poisoning, quicksand, fire pits, and ROUSes (rodents of unusual size) and giant shrieking eels that attack main characters. But the movie's skewed humor and its storybook feel lessen some of the impact of the violent scenes. There's also some drinking -- in one scene a drunken character is revived in a barrel of water -- and a bit of kissing. 4) Pride and Prejudice Parents need to know that the movie includes discussions of marriage for money. Set in 19th century England, it offers a mostly gentle, sometimes incisive critique of class and gender systems. Characters drink at a party, make sexual allusions, and argue with one another concerning money and romance. 5) Lady and the Tramp Parents need to know that this is one of the more mild Disney titles with no clear villain, so it's a good choice for younger viewers who are ready for a feature-length movie. There are a few scenes that are potentially scary, including a climactic scene where the dogs try to protect a baby who is threatened by a beady-eyed rat and an accident scene where a secondary character appears to be dead, but then later appears mildly injured. The Siamese cats are more mischievous than mean, but they can seem creepy to young kids. Romance is a theme throughout, with the two main characters ending up together raising puppies. 6) Fern Gully The magical inhabitants of a rainforest called FernGully fight to save their home that is threatened by logging and a polluting force of destruction called Hexxus. 7) Aladdin Aladdin, a street urchin, accidentally meets Princess Jasmine, who is in the city undercover. They love each other, but she can only marry a prince. 8) Despicable Me When a criminal mastermind uses a trio of orphan girls as pawns for a grand scheme, he finds their love is profoundly changing him for the better. 9) Romeo and Juliet Parents need to know that four centuries haven't diminished the relevance of this tragic and brilliantly worded story, in which the examples of two feuding families drive home a fatal point. Still, teens may see the story as a glamorization of suicide and the subject is well worth discussing with them. 10) Cinderella Parents need to know that this Disney classic is one that families can enjoy together. Kids will likely already be familiar with Cinderella and her Disney Princess colleagues due to a massive marketing effort behind the ladies; their images appear on everything from backpacks to toothpaste. As for other issues of concern, little ones might be upset by the wicked stepsisters and stepmom, who can be very mean and even destructive. In today's world of blended families, it might also be worth discussing that not all stepparents and siblings are mean. And Cinderella is the quintessential passive heroine rescued by a male character (in this case, the Prince), so discussions about her meekness might be in order.
January 31, 2014