My wife and I are big movie fans. If I had to highlight something that I “miss” since we had kids it would the regular dates we’d have the magical world of film.
I was delighted when my son reached an age where he was capable of sitting through a full length film! Our first family outing to the cinema beckoned.
I selected the Saturday morning screening of A Good Dinosaur. It was Disney Pixar, it was a PG, surely this was an excellent choice for a 3 year old? No need to read the reviews.
On the journey to the cinema my son was excited. As we bought the popcorn he was excited. When we took our seats, three abreast, him in the middle, he was excited. When the trailers started he was on the edge of his seat, clearly loving the big screen experience.
Then, the movie began.
In the Content Advisory section on IMDB (a section I only discovered AFTER this experience) there is a subheading entitled “Violence & Gore”. Under this subheading it mentioned that “a minor character dies”.
Spoiler alert, it’s the dinosaur’s father! In a classic Disney move, this ‘minor character’ gets swept off down a river in a terrifying storm in front of the son Dinosaur’s eyes!
What a nightmare! My son, his voice betraying a pre-cry warble, was now asking “Where has his daddy gone?”, “When will his daddy be coming back?” My wife was glaring at me, indicating I should do something to explain the cycle of life to my son.
Truth be told, I was having my own issues with watery tear ducts and was rather unable to articulate something measured and re-assuring to my son. Instead, I chose the path of pretending I could neither hear my son’s questions nor feel my wife’s eye daggers. Eventually the job of explaining “where daddy has gone” fell to my wife, a minor parenting fail she has never let me forget.
Reading some of the user reviews on IMDB afterward reveals that I should have been a bit more prepared.
“Too boring for adults, too disturbing for kids.”
“Not appropriate for young children.”
“Scared my son to tears, we had to leave early.”
“I want my money and my daughter’s innocence back!”
Yes, the Daddy Death scene was disturbing. Yes, I’m not sure the bug needed to be decapitated on screen. No, I don’t think it was a necessary plot point to describe “drowning the dinosaur in a pool of his own blood.”
I found many moments in the movie when I was longing for the adventures of Lightning McQueen and Dusty Crophopper, but then maybe I’m an overly-sensitive parent. What of my 3 year old?
Well, he laughed at the funny bits, shook with fear at the scary bits, cried at the sad bits and cheered at the triumphant bits. All in all he underwent the true cinematic experience and he loved it!
There I was, rightfully to an extent, trying to temper what he was exposed to at such an age. Yet he was allowing himself to be swept away by the magic of cinema; buying into the suspension of disbelief and truly feeling every emotion the film-makers were trying to illicit. I’m actually a little jealous.
What I remarked on the most after this trip was his ability to handle all these emotions. He experienced them, processed them, and once the movie was over, talked about them. I was extremely proud of him. He’s made of sterner stuff than his old man. When we later watched Inside Out together I wouldn’t let him break the cuddle for 20 minutes! I still won’t permit Lion King in the house to avoid facing the moment of Mufasa’s death again.
I get excited thinking about the cinematic experiences my wife, daughter, son and I will share in the future. I’m sure we will regularly share tears, laughter and emotional rollercoasters.
However for the next few years, at least, I think I’ll check the reviews before we go!
What was the first film you took your child to see? Have you ever found yourself watching something you suddenly realised was inappropriate?