Of the three big movies opening this weekend, only one of them as geared at younger audiences, namely the sci-fi teen romance Every Day, and if you’re not particularly interested in seeing it, Christy offers up a quintet of alternatives you can check out at home instead.
Rating: PG-13, for thematic content, language, teen drinking and suggestive material.
Think of this as a speed-dating version of Freaky Friday. Angourie Rice stars as a Maryland high school student named Rhiannon who falls in love with a spirit – or a soul, or something – that switches bodies every 24 hours. At first, this being – who goes by the initial A – takes over the body of her handsome but arrogant boyfriend (Justice Smith), turning him into a sensitive and attentive sweetheart for the day. From then on, A seeks out Rhiannon in whatever body he/she is in to spend more time with her. Either you’re going to go with this far-fetched romantic notion or you’re not. But your kids already may be familiar with Every Day, since it’s based on a Young Adult novel of the same name by David Levithan. There’s some mature material here, as Rhiannon kisses several incarnations of A and it’s suggested that she eventually has sex with one of them (although we don’t really see it). Her original boyfriend smokes, and we see the two of them at a party with teen drinking. Several characters curse. And one of the teenage girls A inhabits plans to commit suicide. But although this movie ultimately goes off the rails, it has a worthwhile message about getting to know people for who they truly are inside, regardless of the expectations you might have based on their outward appearance. Fine for viewers around 11 or 12 and older.
Rhiannon and A are doomed: They can never be together forever because A must hop from one body to the next every 24 hours. It’s tragic, really. But if Every Day seems a little too grown-up (or just plain ridiculous) for your kids, here are some other stories of impossible young love that might work instead:
A total charmer, featuring a winning, 13-year-old Diane Lane in her film debut. Lane stars as a bright American girl named Lauren who lives in Paris with her wealthy parents. She meets and immediately hits it off with a sly, confident French kid named Daniel (Thelonius Bernard), who’s obsessed with American movies. They’re both wise beyond their years (and they definitely talk in a more sophisticated way than most kids their age), which makes them both outsiders. But Lauren’s mother (Sally Kellerman) doesn’t approve of Daniel, which puts their blossoming romance in peril. An impish, adorable Laurence Olivier steps in to become their protector and co-conspirator; he’s a pickpocket who helps the kids escape to Venice to seal their love with a kiss beneath the Bridge of Sighs at sunset. Director George Roy Hill tells a simpler, sweeter story here following the starry, influential Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, and A Little Romance won an Academy Award for its score. It’s about precocious, rebellious kids – which will probably appeal to your own kids — but there’s a sweetness at its core. There’s a tiny bit of kissing and swearing. Fine for viewers around 8 or 9 and older.
Your kids are going to have to read it in high school anyway, so you may as well give them a head start. Director Franco Zeffirelli’s gorgeous, swoony romance is considered one of the definitive Shakespeare adaptations. It was nominated for four Academy Awards including best picture and director, and it won for its cinematography and costumes. You know the story by now: Teenagers Romeo (Leonard Whiting) and Juliet (Olivia Hussey) fall in love, even though their families have long hated each other. Bad things happen. Tweens and teens will love it – the passion, the angst, the sacrifice – and they’ll probably be smitten by the film’s beautiful, young stars. But (spoiler alert!) there is death at the end.
Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can show your kids Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo +Juliet (1996, PG-13). It was quite divisive among critics when it came out, but I appreciate the daring of it – the effort to find a bold, new angle into a story we’ve heard a million times before. Young Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes star as the title characters in the Australian director’s telling, which takes place in a modern setting while retaining (much of) Shakespeare’s original dialogue. They do the balcony scene as a swimming pool balcony scene, for example. Traditionalists balked, but younger viewers may respond to this hipper adaptation. It’s pretty violent, though, with a lot of guns and gang activity. OK for viewers around 11 or 12 and older.
Both of the following achingly angsty high school dramas were directed by Howard Deutch (they were his first and second features, actually) and written by the late, great John Hughes. They are essentially the same movie, separated by a gender swap.
In Pretty in Pink, working-class Andie (Hughes regular Molly Ringwald) enjoys an unlikely romantic spark with the wealthy and handsome Blane (Andrew McCarthy). Naturally, their respective cliques think it’s a ridiculous idea for them to be together – especially Andie’s best friend, the wisecracking Duckie (Jon Cryer in the role that put him on the map), who’s secretly in love with her. Society in general – and high school, specifically — simply will not allow them to be together.
In Some Kind of Wonderful (1987, PG-13), it’s the guy who’s the outsider: Eric Stoltz’s Keith. He falls for the beautiful and popular Amanda (Lea Thompson), and the two forge an unexpected connection – much to the dismay of Keith’s tomboyish best friend (Mary Stuart Masterson), who now realizes she’s been in love with Keith all along. This is yet another movie in which the hierarchical structure of high school will not allow for such fraternization. Plus, Amanda’s ex goes out of his way to make life miserable for Keith.
Both feature language and teen partying, as is usually the case in Hughes movies. There are some grown-up conversations. But for the most part, these would both be fine for viewers around 13 and up.