It's not the first film that seemed far more kid-oriented than it really was. Sometimes it's the fault of misleading ads or a ratings system which slaps the same "R" on a violent, disturbing film as it does on one merely peppered with F-bombs, but most parents (and those looking for a little escapism) know that just because a movie is about children, doesn't mean it's made for children. Here are 10 films that may look all warm and fuzzy and family-friendly ... but really aren't. Despite director Spoke Jonze's insistence that 'Where the Wild Things Are' is not a children's film, many families still trooped to theaters expecting something a lot more kid-friendly than the dark, existential art film they got. After all, it's based on the beloved children's book by Maurice Sendak.
It's not the first film that seemed far more kid-oriented than it really was. Sometimes it's the fault of misleading ads or a ratings system which slaps the same "R" on a violent, disturbing film as it does on one merely peppered with F-bombs, but most parents (and those looking for a little escapism) know that just because a movie is about children, doesn't mean it's made for children. Here are 10 films that may look all warm and fuzzy and family-friendly ... but really aren't.
'Stand By Me' (1986) -- R
Perhaps the quintessential movie about children that's really not for children. The four friends in this film are all 12, but swear like pint-sized sailors, talk about women and have some seriously violent run-ins in the course of their quest to find a rumored dead body. We're sure plenty of real-life 12-year-olds snuck into this one and were nowhere near as traumatized as anyone who snuck into, say, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.' It's a great film that's stood the test of time, but it's probably too intense for younger kids.
'Hope and Glory' (1987) -- PG-13
Probably the most memorable scene in John Boorman's lovely film about a boy's perspective on World War II (based on the director's own memories of the Blitz), is when the lad's school is bombed to smithereens. "Thank you, Adolf!" he crows. The tone of the film is more about his beaming face than any ravages of war. But it's also far above its youthful protagonist's head in terms of sex, as we see his sister get knocked up and the neighborhood boys paying a girl for a peek at her privates.
'Billy Elliott' (2000) -- R
Who doesn't love an inspirational movie about an underdog who excels in an unconventional area? This tale of a working class lad who prefers ballet to boxing is as life-affirming and sweet as it gets, but it's also got enough uses of the F-bomb to be stamped with an R-rating. Sharp-eyed audience members might have noticed it came packaged with a "greenband" trailer (suitable for all audiences) vs. a "redband" (restricted) one. No wonder other countries use a more diverse rating system to convey just what kind of content to expect.
'Spirited Away' (2002) -- PG
Even the most anime-loving younger kids probably won't dig this film from master animator Hayao Miyazaki, about a girl who toils in the spirit world to save her parents, who have been turned into pigs. Although it's beautiful, it's also just plain odd by American standards. Characters include a wizened old witch, a grotesquely oversized baby and several mysterious spirits, such as No Face, who eats nearly everything in sight. It's rated PG for "scary scenes," but its weirdness factor is off the charts.
'Whale Rider' (2003) -- PG-13
Another film that was billed as a feel-good experience: That young girl looks so darn happy on top of that whale! But you may be disappointed to learn just how downbeat it is, and that the young heroine doesn't ride her first whale until the very end of the film. Until then, she faces heartbreakingly stern disapproval from her tribe. True, she triumphs in the end, but after such a long, sad slog, the soaring, giddy scenes proved to be far too few.
'Pan's Labyrinth' (2006) -- R
Critical raves focused on this film's baroque vision, making it seem like a Spanish 'Alice in Wonderland.' Although it's rated R, even many adults were unprepared for the violent and deeply disturbing nature of this film from director Guillermo del Toro. It's hard to convey the skin-crawling creepiness of the the macabre creature who keeps his eyes on a plate when they're not in his hands and eats the horrified heroine's fairy guides right in front of her! The film rightly won a Best Foreign Film Oscar, but there's a reason that Roger Ebert referred to it as "a fairy tale for grown-ups."
'The Kite Runner' (2007) -- PG-13
Although the scene is not explicit, we wonder if a film where a boy is raped should merit a more restricted rating, especially when we see that the boy is bleeding after the attack. There are also scenes of a woman being stoned and the main character being beaten by a Taliban leader. If you'd read the book, you'd know that, but you wouldn't know it from the sunny poster -- which features two boys with their arms around each other, an exemplar of childhood friendship.
'Slumdog Millionaire' (2008) -- R
In TV spots, this Best Picture Oscar winner seemed to be a sunny musical about love and TV-show trivia. The misleadingly feel-good trailer highlighted only the film's happiest moments, such as the sweet love story that endures from childhood to young adulthood. But that R-rating is well earned with violence including torture and a small child who is viciously blinded. And it's hardly a musical: Sadly, the cast dances only to the catchy 'Jai Ho' song at the film's end.
'Marley & Me' (2008) -- PG
Unless you read the book, you wouldn't have known from the film's lighthearted ad campaign that this film will make you laugh and cry ... a lot. The mischievous dog of the title, a golden lab named Marley, ages adorably from puppy to senior citizen, but most audience members weren't prepared to see Marley die onscreen. At least with 'Old Yeller' you know what you're getting into.
'Up' (2009) -- PG
Pixar is synonymous with family entertainment, so it's hard to tell from this film's trailer, which featured a talking dog, an appealingly nerdy Boy Scout and a flying house, that it deals largely with an old man's grief over his late wife. It's not that 'Finding Nemo' didn't have its tragic moments (Nemo and his father are the sole survivors of a shark attack), but the melancholia of this one left many parents choking back tears.
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