It’s fitting that the big blockbusters come out this time of year. Summer is about reconnecting with family, and watching movies together is one good way to do that.
My husband and I have been showing the kids movies at home from our own childhoods lately. Last week we showed them “Big” with Tom Hanks and “Teen Wolf” with Michael J. Fox today. One thing I never noticed before is that they’re both filled with sexual themes. While not kids’ movies, they both have minors as the main characters.
With this gloomy weather we sure have had more time for movie watching, too! So we’d been waiting to see which movie would come out this summer we could actually take them to see at the theatre as a special treat. But when we went to see the kids’ movie of 2011, maybe the only movie I’ll take my kids to see in the theatre this summer, I realized movies today have just replaced all the sex in movies before with more violence. Which is better?
I was just settling in with my four children to kick off our summer vacation by going to see the newly released “Kung Fu Panda 2,” and let’s just say I was shocked that it made “The Karate Kid” look like a G-rated flick. The sequel to the sweet and funny “Kung Fu Panda” original right away had an opening scene that’s a little disturbing. It was all about Po, the fun loving Panda played by Jack Black, playing “Chubby Bunny,” the game where whoever can stuff the most amount of food in his mouth and still talk wins. Immediately I thought of the horrifying news shows I’ve seen over the years about how dangerous “Chubby Bunny” is and how so many children choke to death playing it each year.
OK … I was going to brush past this and think of it as an oversight. Then I was quickly reminded again why this animated movie is PG, and not G, rated.
Early on, Po leaves his home on a mission to save China, and for the rest of the film his journey is packed with martial arts and weapons. I know “Kung Fu” is in the title, as my 8-year-old reminded me later, but except for an exciting scene at the end when we actually get to see the beauty and grace of Kung Fu, when Po deftly turns the fiery cannons around on the enemy, the scenes using Kung Fu were gratuitously violent, fluctuating between slapstick Three Stooges kind of injuries and scenes that were definitely darker than I was expecting. Bully taunts like “Stupid” and “Idiot” were used excessively throughout the movie as well. I kept thinking that the only reason the film isn’t rated PG-13 is because it’s animated — very deceptive that way.
The winning part of the movie is the character of Po, though. His character is certainly why a sequel must’ve been planned for starters. Po is endearing like Shrek, representing the kind of friend we’d all like to have. He’s funny, loyal, sweet, brave and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. My 7-year-old said his favorite part of the movie is the flashbacks to Po as an infant. Po is who and what we came for, and there wasn’t enough of him in it.
Focusing more on the themes the movie touched on like adoption, acceptance, parental love and choosing the course of our own destiny through our decisions could have won the movie many more points if they were also developed more in my opinion.
The first “Kung Fu Panda” did a better job of presenting the characters and the themes. This time around the prolonged action scenes and excessive violence made for a lot less laughter than I expected. I wouldn’t recommend showing this movie to anyone under 7 years old. I should’ve left my 5-year-old and 3-year-old at home.
Hopefully there are better family movies coming out this summer, otherwise we all know we have lots in our archives to show the kids.
Julie is the mother of four young children. See more of her work at kidfocused.com.