The Tale of Despereaux (2008)

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The Tale of Despereaux

released: 2008

rated: G

length: 93 min.

age: 6+

interests: mice, rats, castles, princesses, cooking, updated fairy tales, adventure

Next: read the book!

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City Lights (1931)

City Lights

Black & white, Silent

Released: 1931

Rated: G

Length: 87 min.

Age:  6+           commonsense.org sez:  8

Scary factor:  Guns are brandished, especially during burglary, but more for comedic effect – no harm is done.

Violence:  General slapstick knock-about humour. The Tramp is (cleanly) knocked unconscious in the boxing ring.

Questionable behaviour: drinking and drunken behaviour (including reckless driving) for humour; smoking cigars; wealthy drunk friend is suicidal in several instances

Interests: silent movies, history, city life, love story, money and class

Next: The Gold Rush, Modern Times, Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Junior

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The Music Man (1962)

The Music Man

Released: 1962

Rated: G
Length: 151 min.
Age: 6+  (for comprehension)                     Commonsense media sez: 6 +

Scary: nothing violent, only the talk of angry townsfolk about tarring and feathering Hill

Sexual Innuendo: in some dialogue and songs, but all G-rated and too oblique to be picked up by small children

Interests: musicals, song and dance, marching bands, history, small town life, con men

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Released: 1968
Rated: G
Length: 144 min. (with an intermission at the 1:27 mark)
Age: 6 and up            Commensense Media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: fantasy adventure story abounds in peril but all is exaggerated and cartoonish; the Baron and his spies are too bumbling to be truly scary; the Child Catcher on the other hand is extremely creepy, he’s the scariest thing in the movie, especially when he captures Jemima and Jeremy

Intense Scenes: all the children living underground is a rather pathetic sight, it stuck with me as a child; Caractacus and Truly posing as dolls is a bit suspenseful, but mostly amusing

Questionable Language: apparently Grandpa says “ass” at some point

Other Violence and Mayhem: the Baron and Baroness are pretty weird, especially the Baron’s sly attempts to do away with his wife, particularly during their cutesy song together before the party; in an earlier scene the Baroness is ejected high into the air, she floats gently down thanks to her large skirts and the Baron hauls out his shotgun and shoots at her! (the resulting holes in her billowing skirt bring her down quickly, and he expresses disappointment that he only hit her skirt!)

Interests: cars, inventions, magic, action, adventure, castles, scientists, inventors, spies, musicals

Next: Ian Fleming book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (very different plot)
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Happy Feet (2006)

Happy Feet

Rated: PG for some mild peril and rude humor

Length: 108 min.

Age: 6 + (with reservations – read full review)          Commonsense Media sez: 5 +

Scary Factor: leopard seal lunging right at the camera and ensuing chase; long sliding sequence with avalanche; another hair-raising chase with orcas; close call with boat propeller

Intense scenes: Mumble is cruelly ostracized and finally banished from the colony; when he’s in the zoo Mumble becomes clinically depressed, to the point of madness

Language: idiot, stupid, blubber butt, lardface, fool, etc.

Sexual content: suggestive lyrics in pop songs; much preoccupation with mating season; lots of sexually suggestive body language and innuendo (especially Lovelace)

Interests: penguins, antarctica, ocean, sea creatures, environmentalism

Next: March of the Penguins (documentary)
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Top 5: Silent Movies for Preschoolers

It’s often hard to find silent movies on DVD, but the classics are out there, as well as collections of short subjects. Be aware of how your child might react to real knock-down slapstick humour – some may find it a little upsetting. (I tried a few Chaplin shorts on my 3-year-old and they were a little too much for her!)

Of course you’ll have to read the title cards… though a version of The Gold Rush is available that’s narrated by Charlie Chaplin himself!

Here are five brilliant and funny silent movies for the whole family.

1. Sherlock Jr. (1924) – Buster Keaton – 4+

Meek projectionist dreams of being a world-famous detective. Visual effects and stunt tour de force. See full review.

2. Safety Last (1923) – Harold Lloyd – 4+

A department store clerk arranges for a stuntman to climb the building as a publicity stunt, but then finds he must make the daring climb himself. (You all know the famous clock-hanging shot!)

3. The Gold Rush (1925) – Charlie Chaplin – 5+

Charlie’s Tramp goes to the Klondike in search of gold, goes through hard times, falls in love. Some menacing with rifles, a bad guy shoots Mounties, then dies in avalanche. A bear is shot (offscreen) for food.

4. Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) – Buster Keaton – 6+

Bill Jr., a puny and delicate lad, tries desperately to impress his burly steamboat captain dad.

5. Modern Times (1936) – Charlie Chaplin – 6+

The Tramp struggles to survive in the modern world, undergoes a stint in jail and another in a factory. Some gunplay, usual slapstick stuff, plus smoking, accidental drunkenness, and accidental ingestion of “nose powder”, resulting in crazy behaviour.

The Iron Giant (1999)

The Iron Giant

Rated: PG – for fantasy action and mild language

Length: 86 minutes

Age: 6+              Commonsense media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: plenty!… fishing boat goes down in storm (fisherman survives); the robot gets zapped at power station in a loud scene; scared boy runs away from robot; stressful scene in which robot is hit by a train; government agent menaces boy and threatens to take him away from his mom; boys fall from building but robot saves them; big ending has lots of action as army attacks robot and he returns fire; a nuclear missile is launched, heading directly for the town

Intense Scenes: robot learns about death when he sees a stag shot dead by hunters; during battle it briefly appears as if Hogarth is dead but he is soon pronounced unconscious; the moment when townspeople realize they are all going to die when the missile lands is quiet but intense; plus final climax in which robot saves the town is very, very sad and moving (but hang on for the ending!)

Language: “oh my god!”, a few “hell”s, and “you just blew millions of government dollars out of your butt!!” – these warranted the PG?

Bad Behavior: villain smokes a pipe, a boy drinks a little too much espresso and goes a little haywire in a funny scene

Interests: science fiction, robots, action, history (Cold War era)

Next: book The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, other movies written/directed by Brad Bird: The Incredibles, Ratatouille

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Aladdin (1992)


Rated: G
Length:  90 min.
Age: 6 and up         Commonsense Media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: villain Jafar is creepy and evil; the huge lion creature guarding the treasure is truly frightening; it devours a thief at the beginning, though this is not seen; in one scene Aladdin nearly drowns; villain’s magic in the climax at the end is pretty scary and huge – turning into an enormous snake and then an even bigger genie

Action: Aladdin is continually fleeing guards with swords – played for laughs but may be stressful; the scene when Aladdin’s in the cave is pretty heavy action-and-danger-wise (Indiana Jones-esque)

Bad Behavior: when the sultan is imprisoned Jafar’s parrot tortures him by force-feeding him crackers – this might be disturbing, or maybe just disturbing for adults!; Genie smokes a cigarette at one point

Sex: all females are scantily clad; a few kisses

Racism: many stereotypes of Middle-Eastern peoples and lifestyle; heroes sound American, while bad guys have Arabian accents

Language: very slangy; also name-calling: “stupid” “dumb” “idiot”

Interests: Arabian legends, magic, desert, folk tales, other cultures

Next: picture books of 1001 Arabian Nights, old movies like The Thief of Bagdad

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Captain Blood (1935)


Black and White

Rated: TV-G (TV rating)

Length:  119 min.

Age: 6 and up (more for complex plot and slow pace at start)

Scary factor/Violence: slaves are beaten, and one is branded as punishment (not graphic – offscreen); many battle scenes, but generally bloodless; one big swordfight on beach, but not graphic or disturbing

Sex: scene in which pirates party in a brothel/bar is pretty harmless

Other Bad Behaviour: fair amount of boozing, especially among the naughtier French pirates

Interests: pirates, sailing ships, history, old movies

Next: Treasure Island, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk
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Up (2009)


Rated: PG for some peril and action

Length: 96 min

Age: 6 and up        Commonsense Media sez: 6 +

Scary factor: pretty high, with those snarling dogs in attack mode; dogs in planes fly into each other and plummet to the ground; dogs attacking/biting each other; villain Muntz tries to kill heroes; guns firing; many near-falls from airborn house; Muntz falls to his death, though impact not seen

Intense scenes: opening montage showing Carl’s wife in decline and then Carl in the funeral home and in mourning

Interests: action, adventure, travel, ballooning, South America, dogs
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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.