What Bugs You About Kids’ Movies?

Jennifer here with a question for all of you parents and grandparents out there.


We’ve been privileged to feature some fun in-depth coverage of a couple of must-see summer movies here at 5 Minutes for Mom. Christie O. reviewed Cars 2, and I’ve brought you interviews and coverage of Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Both of us were upfront with our assessment of the movies — mainly that they are better for an older child than a young preschooler. Christie O. wondered about the intensity of Cars 2. The plot and some language made some of my fellow mom bloggers worry that Mr. Popper’s Penguins might not be for their young preschoolers (whereas I couldn’t wait to share it with my 7-year-old and 12-year-old).

Each time I take my kids to see a movie in the theater — which is more of a treat than a monthly experience — there are certain things that bug me. Part of these are issues that I need to take up with movie-makers, but others are with parents.

I’ll share what bugs me, and I hope you’ll share your issues in the comments. If you disagree, tell me. If you agree, I’d love to hear that too. Perhaps you are annoyed by something I haven’t mentioned.

Also, be sure to check out my giveaway to win a $50 movie gift card (because the high prices do bug me!) and Christie’s Cars 2 goodies giveaway (because whether they see it or not, they’re still gonna want you to buy stuff for them!).

  • Kids too young for the movie. I can count on one hand the number of movies in the theater my kids saw before they were 5. They saw a couple, but it was a special experience, and honestly not that successful. Monsters, Inc is one of mine and my kids’ favorite movies. I think that was her first movie experience at about 3 1/2 years old, and I realized that she was probably too young. As great and kid-appropriate as that movie is, about an hour in, she was ready for it to be over. when I took my family to see Mr. Popper’s Penguins last weekend, the 4-year-old girl sitting next to me kept asking her mom questions throughout the movie: “Why did that happen? Is he going to be okay?” etc. She wasn’t old enough to handle the plot. Perhaps it’s better to wait for the DVD.
  • Content clearly meant for adults. You know what I mean. Most of these references go over a child’s head, but do we really need sexual innuendo in a movie that is meant for 6-year-olds? The lack of that content was one thing I really appreciated about Despicable Me and most Pixar movies in general.
  • “What the. . . . .?” I mentioned this in my review of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, but if I never hear “What the. . . ?” in another kids’ movie, or other substitutes for cursing, I would be a happy mom. I don’t like hearing my 7-year-old say it, but what do you expect when he hears it in a movie and on TV all the time?

I think that both parents and movie-makers try to make movies a “one-size fits all” experience, but the truth is that the movie that is appropriate for our 9-year-old is likely to be too much for our young preschooler to handle. That’s hard to deal with, especially when we are looking for a fun family outing, but I think we’d all be better off if we tried to tailor our kid’s movie experiences to what was appropriate for them.

Am I off my rocker? Or did I miss something else that you wish you can’t stand? Let’s talk about it.

Original post by 5 Minutes for Mom contributing editor Jennifer Donovan


  1. says

    Jennifer, I completely agree with you on ALL those points!!!

    I get so frustrated that movies that should be for young audiences have adult themes and adult language.

    And why are movies that should be for young boys, like Transformers, made for grown men and then marketed to young boys??? Don’t even get me started… It enrages me.

    I truly appreciate when Disney makes good movies that are age appropriate like the recent Tinkerbell

    I brought Julia to see that in the theater and it was so wonderful and perfectly age appropriate.

    I think it’s important for parents to try to give feedback to the film makers about what we want in movies… and it’s about creating age appropriate films, losing bad language and adult themes.

    • says

      You’re right, Susan. I think that they are afraid to make a movie that is truly for a young preschooler, but think of how much they truly end up making with DVD sales and all of that.

      I didn’t mention merchandising, but the Transformers thing reminded me. I hate it when a PG-13 movie does promotions and toys clearly meant for 6 year olds!

    • says

      I also mentioned in my comment that movies are not marketed appropriately, and your reference to Transformers is a perfect example of what I was thinking about.

  2. says

    YES! I remember going to see Lord of the Rings with my hubby back when it came out (I think it was the 2nd one) and there were small children in the theater! Don’t even get me started! I took our 2-month old with us once when we went to see a movie but she slept through the entire thing. The next time she went to a movie theater was when she was 4 1/2!

    I have caught my 3-year-old saying “What the…?” and was quite surprised! I agree it is not as bad as the actual cursing but I still would rather not have my kids even using the “substitutes”!

    • says

      I noticed on the cinema page when I’m checking movie times it now says “No child under 6 will be admitted to a rated R movie” or something like that. It’s a shame that they have to have rules to make sure that parents don’t have their children out late at night at inappropriate movies just because they want to see them!

      And you reminded me, Junglewife. My daughter DID see a movie with a friend and me when she was 4 months old, and I knew she’d sleep through it.

  3. says

    Yes, I totally agree. While I am a mom to 2 boys ages 5 & 3, I am also a girl. What I can’t get my head around is all the shooting that has to take place in movies in general. There is just so much shooting! I never once thought about this before I was a mother, I thought “boys will be boys!” But then I became a mother and found that shooting is everywhere! And also I realized there truly is a difference in dna between boys and girls. LOL Anyway, I can’t wait to review Winnie the Pooh for everyone (we saw that also at the junket) and it (without giving too much away) embraces a child’s innocence so sweetly. I don’t want to keep my kids in a bubble (well yeah, sort of I do) but I would love to surround them with movies that are sweet, funny and have great messages at the same time. For as long as I can, really. And I wish there were more of them!

    • says

      When Susan mentioned the Tinkerbell movie, I was hoping that your review for Winnie the Pooh would be along those lines — truly appropriate for a young audience.

  4. says

    Can they stop making movies with inappropriate adoption themes? As a foster parent, I have to carefully screen kids movies lately, especially after the emotional trauma after Despicable Me…

    And 3D…neither me (because I already where glasses) nor my almost 4 yr old (too wiggly) can wear the glasses without issues…we always choose 2D!

    • says

      I loved Despicable Me, but you’re right about the whole evil housemother and the adoption of the girls. That is actually a pretty dark/mature theme (and inaccurate). Interesting point!

      • says

        It is a cute movie but the foster kiddos i had at the time did NOT like the part where they put the girls in the “Shame” boxes. Other kids I have had also hated the group home scenes. But it seems like it is a constant theme in kids movies: Kung Fu Panda 2, Stuart Little, Meet the Robinson’s. Some end positively but others have very inaccurate depictions of group homes/orphanages, etc.

  5. says

    Well, Jennifer, I know you know how strongly I feel on this topic. My youngest kids have only seen two movies in the theater (one of which wasn’t my first choice, but circumstances at the time led to it…). I would echo all your peeves as well as the ones addressed in the comments here.

    I tend to be more critical about the gender-based assumptions and biases that I see in so, so many movies, especially Disney’s fare. Recently, Peggy Orenstein (author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter) addressed the lack of female characters (both lead and even secondary) in Pixar films on her blog, where there has been interesting conversation– http://peggyorenstein.com/blog/pixars-female-problem-please-stop-asking-what-about-jessie

    • says

      I do respect Pixar for being slightly above the bar on some issues, but you’re right! I checked out that blog, and I do disagree about Finding Nemo. Dory really was the 2nd or 3rd character “lead” in that one, and instrumental in the plot.

      But I think that’s a culture issue. It goes back to trying to reach everyone with one product. It’s assumed (and true, really) that girls are more likely to see movies that have boy characters than vice versa.

      Good for her for calling attention to it.

  6. tara says

    We just saw Rio with 4, 5, 6, and 7 year olds. While they enjoyed it, once again, a character gets hit in the privates for laughs. He evens barfs up 2 jewels. How do I explain that to the kids?? Enough jokes about privates! Also, the dog says, “That’s the spit.” Sounds enough like sh#* to me. Not what you want them repeating. why do movie makers think this stuff is ok for kids? Ack!

    • says

      Getting hit in the privates is funny. Just ask my 41 year old husband! But the jewels — really?

      It seems like most movies that get PG ratings (Mr. Popper’s Penguins included) are because of “potty humor” — literally. Since I have a 7-year-old son, that’s pretty much reality around here, but again — it’s something that he couldn’t exercise control over repeating when he was younger, which goes back to the fact that most movies truly are not made for 4 and 5 year olds.

  7. says

    Gosh, I completely agree. I’ve taken my 6 year old to see 2 movies. I’d much rather watch them at home so that when stuff happens that’s inappropriate for him, I can explain it to him without bugging all the other patrons. It’s such a shame and I definitely agree with above: they are making these super hero themed movies for adults, but then marketing them for children. When my child wants to see Transformers with a lot of adult content, it bugs me that it was even advertised to him in the first place.

    We were hoping to take our boys to see Cars 2, but we might stay home and wait for the DVD. I just wish that they would realize that parents enjoy children’s movies when they are great for their kids. There’s no need to have any innuendos in the movie for my enjoyment!

    • says

      There have been a lot of super hero movies lately, and all PG-13. And honestly, I know a lot of 8-year-olds end up going, so the movie companies still win! They get the 30 year olds and the kids probably too young to watch.

  8. says

    My 4-year-old son is obsessed with penguins and couldn’t wait to see Mr. Popper’s Penguins. We started reading the book about a month before the movie came out (last week). I let him know the movie would be different. He loved it! I think he was probably so young that things like a plot didn’t make a difference to him. He just wanted to see the penguins!

    • says

      That’s great to hear, Holly! I made my son (7) read the book before the movie. He really liked the book, but then he LOVED the movie. He said the movie was way better. I think if we had tried to read the book after the movie, he would have thought it was boring, so I’m glad we did it that way.

      There was enough penguin cuteness to entertain young kids, but since mine are older now, I didn’t know if the plot details would bore them.

  9. Tina says

    I think that there are definitely small kids out there who are not ready to sit at a movie. My almost 5 year old loves going to the theater, though, and has been to numerous movies with no problems.
    I totally agree with you about the inappropriate underlying humor. Quite aggravating. And I can’t stand 3D! Gives me a headache and costs way too much.
    I pretty much never take the kids to the movies without checking Plugged In first so I can prepare myself for anything inappropriate.

  10. says

    Many of the same things you mentioned, but also, people who allow their kids to be loud and parents with crying babies who will not leave the theater.

    I also question the age-appropriateness of some of the comments, as you mentioned, but also making the bad guys into heroes. And movies rated PG-13 that clearly should be rated R. Also the marketing of movies which creates in teens a desire to see rated R movies.

    I suppose I could actually write a very long list.

    • says

      I know — my list keeps getting longer and longer the more I think about it.

      In the end, regardless of ratings and marketing, it’s up to us as parents to screen our kids from inappropriate content. Of course, it makes it hard with a tween when “everyone else can see it,” but who said parenting was easy?

  11. says

    The content clearly meant for adults can be so inappropriate! Did you see the playboy bunny reference in HOP?? Clearly there were little kids in the movie and it was marketed to little kids but that “sexy bunny” reference was not kid friendly. My son didn’t get the reference (thankfully).

    • says

      My friend warned me about that, and yeah, I thought it was totally inappropriate. Why put that in there at all?? Whether they know or not? What really creeps me out, is I wonder if it was product placement/advertising that they actually paid to have in there. I don’t know if it was or wasn’t, but if it was, that’s really crazy.

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