Maybe, just maybe, the censors don’t get it right every time. Are these restrictive-rated films okay for youngsters after all, or is our writer just a really irresponsible father…?
Regular Age of Dad readers may be aware I’ve had a bit of an ongoing series here regarding the film viewing habits of my family, and one of the big questions for any cineaste parents: when is it okay for my children to watch films which are not strictly speaking family friendly?
As I’ve long argued, it’s not necessarily as simple as going by the BBFC ratings. Last time around, I listed a number of PG-rated films which I wouldn’t want my kids to see; now, to give the flip-side, here are some examples of 15-rated films which I have been happy to watch with them.
One thing that should of course be made clear straight away is that allowing your child to watch a film with a rating higher than their age is not, strictly speaking, against the law. From their earliest days, UK ratings were always intended as primarily advisory; not unlike the US system, which allows children into R-rated films with a parent or guardian.
Current BBFC guidelines make it clear that children under 15 or 18 will not be allowed entry to a film of that rating at the cinema, whilst under 12s require adult accompaniment to see a 12A; likewise, stores are not legally allowed to sell 12, 15 or 18 rated DVDs/Blu-rays/videos (hey, some people say they’re making a comeback) to anyone below the applicable age.
However, to the best of my understanding it is entirely legal for an adult to allow a child to watch a film of that rating in the home, with criminal charges only possible if an adult knowingly shows a child anything rated R18 – i.e. hardcore porn.
(Still, this does leave the matter of how easily such material can be accessed online, but that’s a whole different question for a different time…)
Of course, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum, just because we can doesn’t automatically mean that we should. Ratings exist for a reason, and we should certainly pay them heed. Even so, all parents have their own ideas about what is or is not suitable for children, and what their own children can handle.
Also on Age of Dad: 7 ‘PG’ Rated Films (And A ‘U’) I Won’t Let My Kids Watch
The certificates are not always going to reflect this. For example, our youngest laughed hysterically at the bad guy getting his hand bitten off by a crocodile in the 12-rated Romancing the Stone, but was distraught at Celia Imrie getting a tarantula dropped on her head in the U-rated Nanny McPhee.
These are the 15-rated films which my wife and I both felt were fine for our children to see, and so far as we can tell none of them had any detrimental effect.
Big Trouble in Little China
Director John Carpenter may be justly renowned for his horror movies, but he’s produced family-friendly works on occasion, and this 1986 kung-fu comedy adventure cult classic is the best of them all.
The BBFC base Big Trouble in Little China’s 15-rating on ‘strong violence,’ and there is indeed a ton of chopsocky action as well as a bit of shooting; yet it’s almost entirely bloodless, and clearly fantastical. Plus the overtly comedic tone – exemplified by Kurt Russell’s hilarious turn as the dim-witted would-be tough guy Jack Burton – renders it all pretty innocent.
As a longtime personal favourite, I couldn’t wait to introduce it to my young ‘uns – although, if I’m honest, they weren’t as enraptured as I’d hoped.
I’m probably about to lose a few Dad points here, but I have no shame in admitting I love this movie, and indeed the whole Charlie’s Angels TV and film franchise (aside from that godawful 2011 TV reboot).
While older viewers may, erm, appreciate the spectacle a little differently, kids respond to the bright, cartoonish tone – which, again, clearly marks it out as fantasy. And while it may be overflowing with innuendo, most of that goes over the heads of younger viewers; plus, who among us didn’t see a few Carry Ons as a pre-teen?
The BBFC website doesn’t give specific reasons for the 2000 film getting a 15: presumably it’s down to the violence, which admittedly gets a little harsh at points, and/or the use of The Prodigy’s ever-controversial song Smack My Bitch Up during a fight scene.
Curiously, follow-up Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle got a 12A, when it’s arguably the more violent and overtly sexual of the two films.
DOA: Dead or Alive
Very much in the same tone as Charlie’s Angels (and, indeed, the same DVD box set in our house) is this 2006 video game adaptation, which the BBFC slapped with a 15 for ‘strong action violence.’
Yes, it’s almost wall-to-wall fighting, and most of the participants in these fights are women wearing little more than bikinis. Naturally, it might raise a few eyebrows. But again, the action is all so clearly OTT and cartoonish that there’s very little chance of kids mistaking it for reality; and, again, younger viewers generally don’t pick up on the heavy sexual overtones.
I suppose, as with Charlie’s Angels, some might say DOA sets a bad example to kids because it objectifies women. All I can say is, as soon as we pointed out to our daughter that Devon Aoki’s Kasumi is both a princess and a ninja, her mind was well and truly blown.
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The Monster Squad
This 1987 film was a major turning point in my childhood. Where previously I had run screaming (often literally) from anything even remotely horror-related, after this I couldn’t get enough of monsters, maniacs and gore.
I’d be lying if I said The Monster Squad had anything like the same impact on my kids, but I can at least happily confirm they laughed their heads off at Fat Kid kicking Wolf Man in the nards.
I should also point out that the version I showed my kids was an imported Region 1 DVD; The Monster Squad has not had an official UK release since its last VHS edition in 1990. Given it’s clearly geared toward kids, I’d like to think it would get a 12 now, although some of the more gruesome moments might be pushing it.
Rock ‘N’ Roll High School
Now, I’m not one of those parents that dresses their kids up in Primark Ramones T-shirts, but I’ve certainly done my bit to educate my kids on the legends of punk rock. What better introduction than this wonderfully silly 1979 Roger Corman musical comedy (even if the band themselves hated it)?
This is another instance when the BBFC website comes up blank regarding the justification for the film’s rating, although in this case I’d assume it’s to do with a few brief moments of drug humour, notably a scene in which a hippy snorts cocaine off the floor.
Again, this a joke that’s almost certain to go over the heads of kids – but even if they do have some sense of what’s going on, the scene hardly endorses the behaviour.
There’s also an abundance of mild sexual references, but nothing particularly scandalous. Kids are more likely to be taken in by the more madcap humour, including but not limited to exploding mice.
Also on Age of Dad: When Is Your Child Old Enough To Watch Films Rated Higher Than PG?
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Now, to be honest I shouldn’t really count this one, as it was actually downgraded to a 12 rating for DVD back in 2006. Still, it was a 15 when I was a kid, which didn’t stop my parents letting me see it early – and I was happy to follow suit.
The BBFC warn of ‘moderate sex references and comic violence.’ True enough; the hilarious Black Knight scene, Lancelot’s assault on the wedding party, and the attack of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog are all relatively bloody, but the tone is so patently absurd that they can’t be taken seriously, even by younger viewers.
As for the sex references; I think I just coughed very loudly to obscure Carol Cleveland saying “oral sex” in the Castle Anthrax scene.
Most old Jackie Chan movies
In what has to have been one of my most classically Dad-ish moments ever, we were just about done watching Jackie Chan’s 2010 family movie The Spy Next Door when I loudly declared to the kids, “Pah! Think that’s good? You should see his early stuff!”
Police Story, Supercop, Armour of God, Operation Condor, Project A… the list goes on. As the pioneer of Kung Fu comedy and godfather of Parkour, Jackie has produced reams of priceless entertainment; and in his best work, he always made a point of differentiating ‘action’ from ‘violence.’
While there are a few moments here and there that push it too far (say, the scene in which he’s bloodily pelted with glass bottles in Rumble in the Bronx), for the most part Jackie’s movies have a wonderfully comedic, heightened tone which resonates well with young kids – and surely no one, young or old, can fail to be flabbergasted by the stunts he pulled off in his prime.
That having been said, being a dad, I was most keen to emphasise how much better the end credits outtakes montages were on his older films: “You see kids, on The Spy Next Door it was all just Jackie struggling to say his lines in English; in these ones, he’s narrowly avoiding death!
“Look, there’s Jackie falling several storeys and hitting the floor sideways on his head! Look, there’s Jackie being carried out on stretcher! See that expression of agonising pain on his face, and how it looks like he’s thrown up blood? Are you looking, kids…?”