This week’s big movie, Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, features a video game-styled narrative, a virtual world, and a smorgasbord of pop culture references to things like the Ninja Turtles, Back to the Future, Overwatch, and the Iron Giant, so there’s a good chance your kids will be interested. But not everything in the film is kid-friendly, so Christy breaks it down and offers a trio of earlier Spielberg films that might be more appealing.
Rating: PG-13, for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language.
Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Ernest Cline novel is an explosion of ‘80s nostalgia, so it’s definitely aimed at those of us who grew up in the era. But the majority of the film takes place within a colorful and crammed virtual reality known as the Oasis, filled with video game and movie characters, so kids will certainly be drawn to it, as well. In a dystopian near future in Columbus, Ohio, a teenage gamer named Wade (Tye Sheridan) spends most of his time in the Oasis to escape his dreary life. He and his friends are all searching for the three hidden keys left behind by the game’s mysterious creator (Mark Rylance); whoever finds them all gets to run the whole place. Despite the many over-the-top CGI battles and chases that take place, involving everyone from The Iron Giant to Chucky from the Child’s Play movies, most of the action is extremely cartoonish. It’s also breathless and non-stop throughout the movie’s overlong 140 minutes, with various kinds of weaponry. But there’s one segment in particular you should look out for: It’s a reference to a particularly chilling Stephen King movie adaptation, and it might be too intense for younger children. My 8-year-old son, who has seen a ton of movies in his life (including Spielberg’s Jaws), was terrified, trembling and sobbing in a ball in his seat. There’s also a healthy amount of language and general peril throughout. I’d say this is fine for mature tweens and older.
If Ready Player One sounds like it’ll be too much for your kids to handle, here are a few more suggestions from the legendary Spielberg that might be a better fit:
Rating: PG, for language and mild thematic elements.
One of my favorite movies ever, and one I had the pleasure of sharing with my son a few years back when we did a “Summer of Spielberg.” I was almost 10 years old when I first saw it, but even as an adult all these years later, I still cry every time. Surely you know the story by now; this is one of the director’s most enduring classics. An alien gets left behind on Earth in Southern California, and a sweet, sensitive boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) dares to help him get back home. There’s a bit of language throughout, as well as general tension and peril as Elliott, his older brother, and their friends try to escape the government agents who are after them. And it turns unbearably sad when the deeply connected Elliott and E.T. physically deteriorate at the same time. But the themes of friendship, teamwork and bravery – and that overall Spielbergian magic — are more than worthwhile. Fine for kids around 5 and older.
Rating: PG, for adventure action violence, some drunkenness and brief smoking.
Spielberg’s adaptation of Herge’s classic Tintin comic books – his first animated film — is a visual delight for all ages. This isn’t necessarily one of the director’s most important movies, but it’s a good introduction to his work for the younger viewers in your home. Jamie Bell provides the voice of the title character, a young investigative reporter who works alongside his best friend and dog, Snowy. He helps a ship captain (Andy Serkis) search for hidden treasure that was lost on a sunken ship belonging to his ancestor. There’s a ton of pirate action along the way – swashbuckling, gunfire, explosions, that kind of thing. The film has a lot of energy and it moves in lively, imaginative ways. But Tintin is also a great hero for children with this bravery and resourcefulness. It might be too intense for very little kids, but fine for viewers around 7 or 8 and older.
Rating: PG, for adult situations/language and violence.
This one’s definitely for older kids, but it’s very much worth revisiting with them, especially because it’s such a classic and a hugely defining film for Spielberg. This is the movie that established him as an exciting, important young filmmaker. And it’s the original blockbuster, ushering in the kind of summer movie season that’s become a ritual in the decades since. The premise is pretty simple: A great white shark terrorizes tourists at a charming New England beach town, and an intrepid crew (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw) set off into the water to track it down. When Jaws came out, it was terrifying. And it’s still a suspenseful experience because Spielberg waits for so long to show us the actual shark. The mere idea of it is more then enough to put us on edge, as is John Williams’ iconic, spare score. In retrospect, the mechanical shark looks pretty cheesy and of-its-time. Still, danger abounds, and a young boy is among the shark’s victims. We see body parts, blood and panic. But I’d say this is fine for viewers around 10 and older.