"Is This a Family Movie??"
By Robert G. Newman


Children and adults are bombarded daily with advertising for the latest and greatest film to hit the big screen. The commercials make the film seem so funny, and so innocent, that you are begged by your youngsters to take them to see it. You reluctantly oblige, thinking you're the good parent, and are dragged down to the local multiplex to plop down your hard earned cash to see this supposed cinematic masterpiece (or at the very least you hope you won't fall asleep.) As the theatre darkens and you are subjected to five more advertisements in the guise of "trailers" for future films aimed at taking your money, you settle in with your overpriced popcorn to enjoy some "quality time" with your kids.

Within five minutes you hear the Lord's name taken in vain, then comes the bathroom humor, the gross-out jokes, a few "mild" obscenities (who said those are mild?), and then the big bad word. You are stunned. You sit in embarrassment and disbelief that they could market this as a family film.

Are you at the mercy of the studios' marketing machines? They aim at your children on Saturday morning's cartoons as well as every children-oriented cable channel. Nickelodeon and Disney and a myriad of other studios make a big push to earn millions of dollars on a film's opening weekend, and then stretch it out with merchandising at not only Toys R Us, but in your kid's meals at McDonalds and Burger King as well.

What is a responsible parent to do? Fortunately you have options. First off, you can close your eyes and ears and not go to the movies. Of course, this might not be an option and it will also deprive you of some good fun family entertainment. Another option is to listen to some trusted people on what they thought of the movie. This option is not necessarily the best either because of differing opinions of what is acceptable for their family versus yours. Critics and ratings vary on their opinions, and often don't indicate the true appropriateness of a "family film".

Fortunately if you have a computer, you're in luck. There are several web sites that may be able to guide you through today's movie minefield. The first site is called Screenit.com (www.screenit.com). This site, with its thorough and seemingly unbiased reviews, is one of the best that I have found on the web for its completeness. It breaks down the movies into 15 rated components including Alcohol/Drugs, Disrespectful/Bad Attitude, Frightening/Intense scenes, and Profanity. A simple grid system gives an overview of each category, and then breaks down each occurrence concerning that topic in detail throughout the film review. It also includes topics to talk about with your children.

Another website is from the excellent group at Focus on the Family (www.family.org). This site provides movie reviews from the Christian perspective. The reviews are more content driven and include narrative reviews with the positive and spiritual aspects included, as well as numerous other rating criteria.

A third site is FilmValues.com (www.filmvalues.com). This site, like Screenit.com, breaks the films down into categories that may influence your decision to see the film.

If you want to use the movies as a learning tool, you can check out Teach with Movies (teachwithmovies.org). This site provides films about certain topics that can be used for lesson planning purposes. Historical events and achievements, ethical and social issues, and various other lessons through various films are discussed in this site. Keep in mind that this is not a Christian site, but may provide some insight into various topics for you and your family.

If you are a trivia buff, one of the most invaluable websites is IMDb, (www.imdb.com). The Internet Database from this site is first rate. Its reviews are somewhat generic, and it does not delineate specific content issues as the others listed above, but includes one of the largest databases about movies I've ever encountered. You can search movies by name, actors, characters, quotes, plots, as well as a myriad of other criteria. This site is fantastic for those of us that really love movies, and sometimes ask "now what was the name of that actress in that movie about the talking Volkswagen back in the sixties?" (In case you're wondering, Michelle Lee starred with Dean Jones and Buddy Hackett in The Love Bug in 1968and I didn't even need the website for that!)

With the prevalence of moral decay and depravity that seems to be infecting films (and society) more and more these days, at least you have some resources that can help guide you through the morass. Good luck, and good viewing!


IF YOU LIKE THIS ARTICLE and wish to send the author a note, he can be reached at: Rnewman@fast.net


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