Can My Kids Watch This Movie? Family Movie Guidance...For Parents.

Our parent movie reviews let you know which new releases to take your kids to and which ones you may want to hold off on.


MysteriesoftheUnseenWorld ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernal

MPAA Rating: NR          Length: 40 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 8+. Nothing questionable, really. This is a documentary about "unseen" organisms and phenomena around us, so there are a lot of scientific images here. Some are a bit gross—a mice decaying, a group of strawberries being overrun by mold, a close-up of a flea—but they're more fascinating than off-putting.

A combination of exquisitely detailed images and well-written narration, 'Mysteries of the Unseen World' is an unforgettable documentary from National Geographic. For parents and children alike, the film offers unparalleled wonders.

By Roxana Hadadi

The deep blue color of a butterfly's wing. A tendril of a vine creeping up a tree trunk toward sunlight. The explosion of popcorn kernels, one by one, in heated oil. The inside of a caterpillar's mouth. Things we could never with our naked eye, but that are unforgettable once we glimpse them, are the crux of the fantastically well-done National Geographic documentary "Mysteries of the Unseen World."


JackandtheCuckooClockHeart ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole-popcorn-kernalhalf-popcorn-kernal

MPAA Rating: PG       Length: 94 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 10+. Although "Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart" is an animated film, it feels somewhat off tonally for children. It has an overall macabre feel, and lots of elements may not sit well with young viewers: frozen birds falling out of the sky, a bully getting his eye plucked out, and lots of orphans, as well as the suggestion of something like drug addiction (a character is addicted to drinking distilled tears) and the mention of whiskey. Plus, the central story is about true love, which may be too disconnected emotionally for younger viewers, and the ending isn't particularly happy, either.

Animated film 'Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart' boasts an offbeat, steampunk-inspired design that is sometimes thrilling. But the film has a tonal problem, with a true-love-inspired plot that isn't especially welcoming for younger viewers.

By Roxana Hadadi

The general trend in animated children's movies seems to be moving away from true love as the primary plot, and that's a good thing. Gigantic hits like "The LEGO Movie" and "Frozen" were about self-expression; the charming film "Ernest & Celestine" about an unlikely but rewarding friendship; the understated "A Letter to Momo" about familial love and grief—some had romantic subplots, but they weren't front and center. There is only so far you can go with characters who are only consumed by each other—and that's the issue with "Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart," which has a laser focus on true love and suffers because of it.


TheBoxtrolls ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernalhalf-popcorn-kernal

MPAA Rating: PG        Length: 97 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 8+. The film is about the rivalry between humans and creatures called "boxtrolls," who are rumored to be monsters that eat human flesh and revel in violence; they aren't, though, so those that heresy is only discussed but never presented. There are also some gross-out images of the main villain feasting on cheese and having a terrible allergic reaction that causes him to swell grotesquely, the use of leeches to lessen that swelling, the boxtrolls eating bugs, and the boxtrolls' bare butts. Also a couple of sexually themed jokes.

'The Boxtrolls' is a weird little movie with touches of gross-out humor, but its emotional core is genuine. The stop-motion comedy is slight plot-wise but effectively moving, particularly in its exploration of fathers.

By Roxana Hadadi

It has been two years since the last stop-motion-animation children's film was released (2012 had "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," "ParaNorman," and "Frankenweenie"), and the medium has been missed. There is just so much effort and work that is obvious in every second of a stop-motion-animation film, and the results are always intriguing, often seeming creative in a way that computer-generated animation isn't. On looks alone, then, "The Boxtrolls" is a success, with its finely detailed landscapes and extremely expressive characters; it helps that the story is emotionally resonant, too, without being overwrought.


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