One of the things many a dad wrestles with is deciding if a movie is suitable for their kids. Kids often want to watch the same thing mom and dad do. Digital Video Recorders at home have really helped in the family watching, as they allow parents to skip past objectionable parts of movies and even television shows- assuming you are watching those programs on a delay.
This past weekend though I had to go it without a remote control and chance taking my girls, ages 5 and 11, to go see the new alien invasion flick, BATTLE: Los Angeles. (Not to be confused with the Syfy Channel's lame-o Battlefield Los Angeles).
I based my decision to take the girls on two factors: first, I've made a real effort to make sure my kids know movies are make believe. We watch all the behind-the-scenes stuff on the DVDs/Blurays, and we watch as many Movie Magic-type programs as possible. Syfy's reality competition, Face Off, has helped immeasurably with my youngest, showing her step by step how makeup effects are done. That being said, I do still limit a lot of horror or gore-type programs. Make believe or not, I don't want my kids being scared to sleep in the dark or getting bad nightmares.
Secondly, I read several reviews of the movie friday. Roger Ebert had one particularly scathing review in which he compared Battle Los Angeles to Independance Day- one of our family favorites. It was this comparison (with which I heartily disagree) that made me decide to take the whole family to watch some invading aliens get their asses kicked by the Marine Corps.
Both my kids fell asleep during this movie.
Shockingly, my 5 year old lasted far longer than her big sister, dozing off only moments before the big climax of the movie. My 11 year old dozed off twice during the movie, for very prolonged naps. How either was able to sleep through the ear drum bursting, chest-thumping loudness of the theater is beyond me. And I'll note I find it odd that as I get older and become hard of hearing, movies seem louder to me. One of the main reasons I dislike going to the movies is the brain-jsotling volume levels. I can control the sound in my home theater.
Is this movie appropriate for kids? Well, aside from boring mine to sleep, I'd say that it is. Sure, we see innocent civilians being killed by aliens. There are bodies in the streets everywhere. But this is a war/diaster movie and nothing on screen is going to be any worse than what children see on the news. Sadly, death and violence occur in plain view in the real world, and I am of the opinion we shouldn't encourage or shield kids from it. They need to be aware of it. I'm not saying they should be forced to watch violence, or that we as parents should drag the kids to a movie because it has violence.
Where does the level of violence fall in Battle: Los Angeles? It's not SAW. Nor is it Saving Private Ryan. The best analogy I've read is comparing the film to Black Hawk Down. And maybe that's why it bored my kids to sleep. The violence wasn't over the top. It's wasn't particularly bloody or gruesome. There weren't flesh eating zombies or disemboweling monsters. The violence, aside from being excessively loud, is fairly low key. Possibly even realistic. The violence isn't bad at all.
What about profanity? Well, it's a war movie. As a veteran I can tell you, soldiers do swear. In fact, I swear at home: "Clean up this (blank) room!" "Didn't I tell you to put these (blank) (blank) toys (blank) away!!!" My kids have heard swearing- or "movie talk" as we like to call it. They understand that movie talk is reserved for adults or those people appearing on TV. Preferably both. I admit to cringing at the G-D I heard in the movie, but again, swearing is something kids are going to hear in real life.
What I do hate to see in movies is sex and nudity. My kids aren't going to see that in plain view. There's a far greater chance of my kids seeing a horrific traffic accident as we drive somewhere, then two consenting adults going at it on the side of the road. I shield my kids from the sex scenes and anyone who argues that sex is natural, it's no big deal for kids to see, etc. etc. I'll gladly accuse of being a closet pedophile. Thankfully, there's no sex in Battle Los Angeles. The only f-ing you see is the alien invaders f-ing up Los Angeles, and the Marines f-ing kicking their asses afterward.
All in all, I'd have to say that Battle Los Angeles is kid-friendly. It may bore them, it may give them a headache, but it's not going to scar them for life. And, in the end, the good guys win, so they hopefully won't come away being particularly worried about any aliens invading.
Yes, you can bring your kids. And you should, because this is a great movie for adults. If you like the whole scifi genre, this is a definite must see. Most of the goofiness of similar movies, plagued with technical inaccuracies and ridiculous writing are gone from Battle Los Angeles. Sure, there are a few corny moments, but you have to have a few in every movie. Sure there are a few errors- but again, every movie has them, and 2 of the 4 I noted were required due to the limitations of filming. For example, the Marines moving on patrol only a few feet from one another. They shouold have been at least 5 meters apart- the kill-radius of a hand grenade. But then they wouldn't have all fit in the frame, and the scene wouldn't have had the same impact. I can forgive the director that. In another scene, the Marines fail to use smoke to obscure their movement. If they had, some fantastic special effects and CGI aliens would have been obscured from my view. So I can live with that too.
And speaking of the aliens... they're great. They are tougher and more advanced than the humans, but our bullets do kill them- unlike many a movie where a 5.56mm round (capable of penetrating concrete blocks) doesn't even tickle the alien/monster/zombie/etc. Nor do the aliens look like people in crazy prosthetics like a Star Trek rerun. Nor do they use fancy lasers or energy-spitting weapons- they shoot projectiles just like we do, because a projectile does far more damage for the energy used to send it. The aliens, and their technology, blend seamlessly with this extremly well-made movie.
Battle Los Angeles is a great movie, and Roger Ebert has again confused entertainment with art.