A parents’ guide to entertainment
You don’t have to be a grinch to suspect there might be more than sugerplums in some of the new holiday-season movies and videos. What about that ”feel-good” film in which a famous child star buys the farm? Or the video that starts with a boy watching his father die in a fire? With ”Forewarned is forearmed” as our motto, here’s Entertainment Weekly’s holiday-release Parents Guide.
The Addams Family
What It’s About: They’re creepy and they’re kooky. Unfortunately, the story line is ooky. The family gets conned by a fake Fester but refuses to cry uncle.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? With ghoul-ee. The knowingly gruesome humor is aimed right at the same part of a child’s brain that appreciates the Garbage Pail Kids.
Violence/Scariness: Gomez and his lawyer indulge in a playful sword fight; Wednesday beheads a doll on a guillotine; another sword fight results in a comic amputation that spurts fake blood all over everyone; two people fall into a grave. Generally macabre tone inverts all-American wholesomeness, and may disturb oversensitive kids (more likely their parents).
Mature Themes: It’s okay to follow a different drummer, especially if he’s dead.
All I Want For Christmas
What It’s About: A young girl asks a department-store Santa Claus to get her divorced parents back together. Meanwhile, her older brother has a plan of his own.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Ho yeah. It’s about Christmas, it’s about kids.
Violence/Scariness: Comic choir fight; mom’s boyfriend gets locked in an ice cream truck.
Profanity: If ”sucks” is still a curse, there’s one offensive word.
Mature Themes: How divorce can affect children; the importance of little kids not wandering off alone.
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
What It’s About: Steven Spielberg’s Fievel Mousekewitz heeds the credo ”Go west, young mouse.” Once there, though, he discovers that the cunning cowcats plan to kill all the mice. What else?
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Of course. If it’s not Beauty and the Beast, that’s only because Spielberg’s touch as an animator isn’t quite as foolproof as the Disney studio’s.
Drugs: Not even catnip.
Violence/Scariness: Evil cats terrorize mice; pack of dogs chase a cat; Fievel gets thrown off a train by a spider; there’s a big shoot-out with guns, knives, and slingshots.
Mature Themes: Spielberg may want you to think Tail says something enduring about the American spirit, but that’s hooey. This is just a good cartoon.
Beauty and the Beast
What It’s About: Once upon a time…oh, come on, you already know this one. Will Kids Want to Watch It?
Repeatedly. And parents will fight over who gets to take the children.
Violence/Scariness: The Beast is pretty scary at first meeting, though not as terrifying as the witch in Snow White. The really frightening bits are when vicious wolves attack Belle and Beast, when the creepy asylum proprietor tries to take Belle’s father away, and a final confrontation between Beast and Gaston that leads to injuries and a death.
Mature Themes: Love conquers all, the ugliness of vanity.
What It’s About: Coming-of-age comedy-drama about a small-town mortician (Dan Aykroyd), his hypochondriac daughter (Anna Chlumsky), her allergic-to-everything friend (Macaulay Culkin), and dad’s new girlfriend (Jamie Lee Curtis), a beautician whose specialty is putting blue eye shadow on dead people.
Will Kids Want to Watch It? Of course they will — Macaulay Culkin’s the Mel Gibson of the Tinkertoy set. But there are three things you need to know: 1) Culkin’s got a supporting role; Chlumsky has most of the screen time; 2) Lighthearted as it tries to be, this movie is about death and dying; 3) Mack dies. They even show him laid out in a coffin. Got it? Okay, the ball’s in your court.
Violence/Scariness: Two dead bodies on a table, two bodies in open caskets, a punch in the stomach, a child attacked by bees and dying from stings.
Profanity: Five harsh words used.
Mature Themes: The themes here — mortality, coming to terms with death, moving on with one’s life — are worth discussing with your children. And if they know what they’re getting into ahead of time, they’ll probably deal with it just fine.