WALL-E (2008)

Rated: G
Length: 98 min
Age: 4 + … watchable at 4, better understood by 5 or 6          Commonsense Media sez: 5 +

Scary factor: our main characters are chased about, but nothing very threatening; Eve has a gun in her arm that she shoots at inanimate objects; in one scene she accidentally sets some huge oil tankers ablaze – no danger to characters, but it’s big and fiery, so may be alarming; a bad robot falls a great distance and breaks apart

Intense: some sad moments near the end when Wall-E seems broken-down/dead, but Eve is looking after him and it’s easy to allay concerns (“He’ll get better!”) because he does!

Language: one ‘heck’

Interests: space, robots, spaceships, environment
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Dumbo (1941)


Rated: G
Length:  64 min.
Age: 4                                     Commonsense Media sez:  6 +

Scary Factor: the sight of the elephants crashing down from their pyramid was more alarming than funny; also Dumbo has to jump from a great height in the clown act and is scared; hallucination scene is just weird enough to freak out some young viewers

Intense scenes: the scene in which Dumbo is separated from his mother is heart-wrenching; the other animals mock Dumbo, and he feels bad, though he does get the last laugh in the end

Also: the general tone of the whole film is rather depressing. Especially scene in which he visits mom in ‘jail’ – very sad! And some parents may not like the boozing and hallucinations so much… (see full review)

Interests: circus, elephants

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Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure (2009)


Rated: G
Length: 81 min
Age: 4 +   (because of rats; might be okay for 3)         Commonsense Media sez:  4+

Scary factor: escaping from red-eyed rats is quite scary, but action-packed and moves along quickly. Encounter with trolls is quickly defused as trolls are more goofy than scary, and easily dodged.

Intense scenes: More troublesome for the very young might be moments of high despair for Tinker Bell, and scenes in which she loses her temper with her friends, however she apologies and learns from all trials.

Warning: Excessive Merchandise Alert!

Interests: fairies, magic, nature, adventure, travel, treasure
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Ponyo (2009)

Rated: G
Length:  101 min.
Age: 4 and up.

Scary Factor: typhoon and tsunami, storm at sea mitigated by sight of little girl happily running on top of the waves!; entire island is submerged in huge flood, but no casualties

Intense scenes: twice Sosuke thinks his fish is dead (briefly); after floods Sosuke finds his mother’s car, eerily empty, and starts to cry, but finds her soon after

Language: mother calls the oddball wizard a “freakshow”; she also calls her husband a “Jerk!”; the wizard calls humans as a species “filthy” and “stupid” (which is justified)

Interests: ocean, sea creatures, magic, nature, spirits, boats, fish, wizards

Next: BOOK: The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen); MOVIES: My Neighbor Totoro, Finding Nemo (a little scarier), The Little Mermaid (a lot scarier)

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Return to Never Land (2002)


Rated: G
Length:  72 min.
Age: 4 and up.                        commonsense media sez: 5+

Scary Factor: opening scenes of WWII blitz in London may be alarming; as in the first film, pirate shenanigans are more slapsticky than scary

Also: separation from father, Captain Hook smokes

Interests: magic, fairies, pirates

Next: MOVIES: Peter Pan (1953) of course, The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Little Mermaid (1989); BOOKS: Peter Pan, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

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The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)


Rated: PG for adventure violence
Length:  102 min.
Age: 4+                                      commonsense media sez: 9+ *

* There’s a big gap between our age recommendations here, which I have given a lot of thought to. Commonsense usually rates a year older than I do, but five?!   If your child likes action, and is okay with violence at a beginner level (arm’s length, non-gory), then I really think 4 or 5 is all right for this film. My daughter was a ‘slightly brave 4’ and had more trouble with the plot points than the violence. She quite enjoyed it, especially the jumping out of trees, which our stuffed animals still re-enact from time to time. … Plus, both Peter M. Nichols (The New York Times Essential Library : Children’s Movies: a critic’s guide to the best films available on video and DVD), and Ty Burr (The Best Old Movies for Families) agree with me – they both rate this film good for 4 years old and up.

Scary Factor: montage of dastardly doings to the peasants is upsetting but brief. Battles are not intense, see below. Robin is captured, which was hard to watch for my daughter, but just made his inevitable escape more exciting.

Interests: history, action, medieval life, England, knights, castles, old movies

Next: books on Robin Hood, MOVIES: other Errol Flynn: Captain Blood; Disney’s animated Robin Hood (1973)

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One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)



Rated: G
Length:  79 min.
Age: 4 and up                            Commonsense Media sez:  5+

Scary factor: Cruella is really creepy.

Violence: buffoonish and not intense, nobody is seriously hurt

Intense scenes: anticipatory suspense, mostly; but some reckless driving and a car crash at the end

Language: Cruella frequently calls Horace and Jasper “Idiots!”

Sexual Innuendo: Just a comment from Roger re. the birth of fifteen puppies, he says to Pongo “You old rascal!” Sentiment is repeated at the end with the appearance of 84 extra puppies.

Also: there’s smoking (both Roger and Cruella) and the thugs take swigs from a wine bottle.

Interests: dogs, puppies, animals, pets

Next: read the book The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith; MOVIES: Lady and the Tramp, The Aristocats (similar story, but with cats, and no Cruella!)

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Peter Pan (1953)


Rated: G
Length:  76 min.
Age: 4 and up.        commonsense media sez:  5+

Scary Factor: Nothing too bad at all – everything handled with great humour, especially Hook and pursuing crocodile.

Cringe Factor: “What Makes the Red Man Red” song, and stereotypical depiction of ‘redskins’; also not very enlightened re. female role models

Violence: much ‘play’ violence, violent language on part of kids, bloodless swordfights, at some point in past Peter cut off Hook’s hand, but this is not seen

Interests: fairies, pirates, magic, mermaids

Next: see it on the stage! (an excellent first play), read the book, older children (8+) could watch the 2003 live action Peter Pan

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Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Black and White, Silent Movie
Rated: unrated
Length: 45 min.
Age: 4 and up.

Scary Factor: nothing to speak of. A little uneasiness perhaps regarding an explosive billiard ball that never quite gets hit… more suspenseful than scary.

Interests: detectives, mysteries, history, silent movies

Next: other silent movies: The Gold Rush, Safety Last! ; more Buster Keaton: Steamboat Bill Jr. (6+), The General (7+), shorts

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Robin Hood (1973)

Rated: G
Length:  83 min.
Age: 4+                      commonsense media sez:  5+

Scary Factor: Much brawling, though very slapsticky. Battle at climax involves fire and threat. At the end it appears for a moment that Robin has been killed, but the suspense doesn’t last long.

Interests: Robin Hood, history, British history, kings, knights, castle, romance

Next: MOVIE: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.