My eleven-year-old has declared “family movie night” one of his favorite weekend activities. Mine too- at least in conception. But as I search for good older-kids-family movies that are both enjoyable and appropriate for parents and almost-tweens to watch together, I find myself despairing, since any screening must also include their six-year-old sister, who would have been happy with Sofia The First: Once Upon a Princess, Part 1. Again.
I have returned to some of my favorite films of yon 1980s, hoping to gain cool-mom cred by introducing my children to some Classic Humor. You would think I would have learned my lesson on this particular account by now: just because it’s hilarious does not mean your kids should watch it.
I beg of you. Learn from my mistakes.
MOVIES WHICH I THOUGHT WOULD WORK BUT THEN WERE SUDDENLY AND HORRIFYINGLY INAPPROPRIATE
The Bad News Bears. This is a movie chock full of adorable little scamps. And their alcoholic coach who curses a blue streak at them.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This one would work well if you could just watch a highlight reel of Ferris singing in the shower, cut to pre-nose-job Jennifer Grey screaming in frustration, then straight to the parade float part. Screening the whole thing, however, means you get to hear, about three times a scene, what my nine-year-old calls “the ‘S’ word that is NOT ‘stupid.'” It’s like paid product placement for scatology.
Happy Gilmore. See above. Also, NOT funny (though my husband would profoundly disagree).
Sixteen Candles. Long Duk Dong has not aged well. Lots of boob talk. John Hughes is still a genius and all, but a fifth-grader does not need to see passed-out-drunk people and Molly Ringwald’s underwear.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The talking-butt scene, I was prepared for, and ready to accept the breakfast-table consequences for some time to come. But the “tricky transsexual” humiliation/reveal in Act Three somehow escaped my mind. Homophobia, transphobia, LOTS of questions from a nine-year-old. And did I mention Nana was watching it with us? Although she napped. But that might have been out of mercy. To quote Ace himself: do NOT go in there.
Ghostbusters. Sigourney Weaver tries to seduce Bill Murray while possessed. Pretty creepy. Also, not as funny as you remember it. Like, at all.
MOVIE WHICH REALLY SHOULD HAVE BEEN FINE BUT IN RETROSPECT WAS NOT
Edward Scissorhands. He may have scissors for hands, but he’s sort of adorably spooky, and way more scared of Anthony Michael Hall than Anthony Michael Hall is of him. And maybe one curse word? However, in the month since we screened this film, my six-year-old needs to stand with her back against a wall whenever possible, so that Edward Scissorhands cannot sneak up behind her. Repeated Google searches of Johnny Depp being nice have not really led anywhere. Be warned, be warned.
THE ONLY MOVIE THAT HAS TRULY WORKED FOR FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT
Napoleon Dynamite. Might be my favorite movie. Best title sequence ever. The kind of squeaky-clean that could only be written and directed by a married couple who are Mormons. It also gets funnier the more you watch it, at least to a point.
But we might like to watch something else one of these Sunday evenings. Anyone have any suggestions? Or should I just lower my standards and cover my eyes?