There have been reports of 10 year olds leaving the cinema in tears, children begging their parents to never show them the film again. The Washington Post suggested it wasn’t suitable for children under the age of 8. Other parents said they’d never trust Disney Pixar again.
All over a PG-rated movie, The Good Dinosaur.
So what age is The Good Dinosaur suitable for?
I asked my 9-year-old daughter (the pre-pubescent adolescent) whether she’d like to go and see The Good Dinosaur. She rolled her blue eyes to the ceiling, tutted loudly, put her hand on her hip and turned her mouth down so it looked like I’d just asked her whether she wanted sprouts with her dog poo for dinner.
‘Why would I want to see that? It’s for little kids!” she said dismissively, stomping heavily back up the stairs and slamming her bedroom door so loudly, I could almost see the big, black exclamation mark hovering outside her room.
My 5-year-old son’s reaction couldn’t have been more different.
“Yay! Today? The dinosaur? Now? Right now?” he said, fairly beaming with delight at the prospect, jumping down from the computer screen and shoving his left foot into his right wellie.
So was it too upsetting for my 5 year old?
An hour of pre-teen bribery (yes, you can have a small cup of the pick ‘n’ mix, yes we can take your phone – as long as it stays in my pocket – yes we can go and get something to eat after etc etc) later and the three of us are sat in our cinema seats. And what happened next surprised us all.
Although he’s one clever cookie – and one super-sensitive soul – most of the movie seemed to go over my son’s head. I mean, he got that *SPOILER ALERT* Arlo’s dad dies (sad) and Spot becomes his best friend (happy) with whom he has great adventures (funny, but sometimes scary, too) and he must say goodbye to him in the end (sad) – he got all that, it just didn’t seem to move him all that much.
And what about my 9 year old?
At first, my daughter was as cynical as ever, leaning over to me and whispering during a crucial scene. “The kid is always with the parent when it dies in Disney Pixar films – just like the Lion King, Bambi – ah, they’re all the same,’ she sighed wearily.
But then, something happened and she forgot herself. She laughed, cried, gasped (so did I, I must admit – what Spot does with the beetle is quite unexpected!), grabbed my arm, laid her head on my shoulder and cried some more. She felt everything that happened to Arlo and Spot – she was right there with them – and she was virtually inconsolable at the end.
Which just goes to show…I dunno. Something.
Is a sad film OK?
Later, when we got home and my son was happily ensconced in Pudsey The Movie (try not to judge – it was a bit of a movie marathon at our place last weekend. Well, it was raining!) and I was talking to my daughter in the bath, I asked her whether she was glad I’d bribed her into coming with us to see The Good Dinosaur after all.
“Yes,” she grinned, her teeth stained a scary shade of blue from those pesky pick ‘n’ mix sweets. “But it was quite sad. Too many sad bits, I think.”
And that’s what some parents (particularly in America) have been saying about The Good Dinosaur – along with the claims of terrifying children, and being too emotional mature for those under 10. So should children watch movies that make them cry, cheer, gasp, gawp and maybe hurt a little? Or should they only watch silly and fun films, as some of the protesting parents have been saying?
If you’re planning to take yours to The Good Dinosaur, here’s our handy guide for bits to gird your loins for and bits to have an explanation at the ready for:
Some controversy with your popcorn, Madam?
- The Dad pushing Arlo too hard (meanie!) in an effort to get him to overcome his fear – He’s only trying to do the best for his child and he’s right, if Arlo doesn’t do what he has to, he won’t survive. But maybe the dad was a bit too harsh about this. Mind you, he was under great pressure to protect his family and their future, so…(Maybe it’s best if you discuss this bit after the movie!)
- The Dad dying – In the midst of life, there is always death. Unfortunately, it happens. It was an accident and it wasn’t Arlo’s fault. And his Dad will always be with him, guiding him, helping him and looking after him, even if he’s no longer with us. He’ll always be alive in Arlo’s heart, because love never dies. Or something like that.
- The hallucination scene My son didn’t ask, but my daughter wondered what was going on here – I said: “They’ve eaten over-ripe peaches which has affected their brains so everything looks weird to them. It’s like they’re drunk – i.e. never drink alcohol, Sweetheart, look what happens to you! The fruit has fermented, I suppose.” “What does fermented mean?” She asked. “SHHHHHHHH!” shooshed the people behind us. Time and place, Mummy, time and place…
- The scary pterodactyls who want to eat Spot and Arlo I started burbling on about survival of the fittest and it being a jungle out there, red in tooth and claw yada, yada, yada – but my kids were completely immersed in the movie and completely ignored me. No change there, then.
- The frightening, short-forearmed, single-parent family of tough cowboy T-Rexes and how they’re proud of their battle scars – because they’re proof that they can survive, no matter how difficult things get, even if the odds are against them.
So there are some fairly full-on moments. But, you know, the more I think about it, the more I realise The Good Dinosaur is a really GREAT movie. For many reasons
- the dinosaurs being the smart ones and the cavemen being the doofuses who haven’t even managed to discover speech yet
- the astounding special effects – were those forests real and only the creatures animation? Or were the landscapes and backgrounds animations, too? Hard to tell sometimes!
- The dinosaurs’ notions of family, education, survival and culture
- the sweetness of vegetarians
- friendship sometimes being more important than family
- the sibling rivalry
- family and good triumphing over evil…I mean, it’s all there.
So my daughter liked the movie, even though she thought it was a tad too sad. On the flip side, my son didn’t think it was too sad or too scary – he simply said it was a good story and he enjoyed the film very much. I liked it a lot, too (let’s face it, anything beats watching Frozen for the gazillionth time!) – for all the reasons stated above, but perhaps most of all because we experienced it together and it sparked some pretty lively and even, dare I say it, educational discussions between us. And that’s got to be a good thing. Right?
But what about you? Are you going to see it? Have you already seen it and thought it was terrible? Wonderful? A bit of both? Do let us know in the comments below…