The latest installment of the Jurassic franchise is directed by J.A. Bayona, who’s best known for a horror film (The Orphanage) and a disaster drama (The Impossible), so Fallen Kingdom is unsurprisingly an intense affair. It may be too intense for some kids, in fact, so Christy Lemire breaks down what to expect in it, and then offers a few alternatives for families with children of different ages.
Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.
The sequel to the 2015 global smash Jurassic World – which made nearly $1.7 billion worldwide – is a lot like its predecessor. The dinosaurs are ferocious, everyone’s in constant peril and lots of folks just straight-up get eaten. Your kids may be interested in dinos, but director J.A. Bayona’s film will be too much for the very young ones. The action is non-stop and often extremely violent. Once again, scientists are foolish enough to tinker with nature and technology, splicing together powerful DNA to create a fearsome super-creature. But Owen (Chris Pratt), Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and their team also find themselves in danger when a volcano erupts after many years on the abandoned Isla Nublar, sending fireballs raining down on them. And one of the main characters who’s consistently running for her life – from dinosaurs and dastardly humans alike – is a bright and resourceful young girl named Maisie (Isabella Sermon), whose quiet presence and wide eyes vividly indicate her fear. There’s a bit of language scattered throughout. I brought my son (who’s almost 9) with me to the screening, and he didn’t find anything frightening, but he’d also seen the first film and likes to play the LEGO video game. For the most part, though, I’d say this is OK for viewers around 10 and older, especially if they’ve already seen the original movie.
The Jurassic World sequel will probably be too intense for a lot of young viewers. If so, here are some dinosaur-centric options for various ages.
Rating: PG, for peril, action and thematic elements.
This happened to come out a few months after Jurassic World, and while it also features dinosaurs and kids interacting with each other, it does so in a much more heartwarming way – albeit with some moments of tragedy. The Pixar Animation tale offers a twist on the tried-and-true, boy-and-his-dog story, but it also harkens to Disney animated classics like Bambi and Dumbo, which featured powerful moments of parent-child peril. It’s a gorgeous film, though, filled with high-tech, photorealistic beauty. You’ll swear you’re looking at real water, trees and mountains. A young dinosaur named Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) reluctantly befriends the feral boy (Jack Bright) who’d been stealing food from his family’s farm. The two repeatedly find themselves in serious danger. Arlo becomes separated from his family and loses his way home in the treacherous wilderness. There are raging storms, predatory pterodactyls and vicious cattle rustlers to survive, as well as dramatic parental loss early in the film, which already was devastating. The film has a touching, unlikely friendship, but also a pervasive sense of loneliness and fear. My son was only 6 when I brought him with me to a screening of The Good Dinosaur, and we both cried in different spots. I’d say this is OK for most kids in your family, but you may need to have a conversation afterward with the particularly sensitive ones.
OK, just hear me out on this. Yes, Caveman has a lowly 24% approval rating on the Tomatometer. It did not exactly get great reviews when it came out, but it’s gained a bit of a cult appreciation in the years since then. And I have really fond memories of watching it as a kid. I was 8 years old when Caveman debuted in theaters, and that’s probably just about the perfect age to watch it. I recall being tickled by the silly slapstick of it all, and the dialogue is all made-up words and prehistoric grunts. That’s pretty ambitious, but it also makes Carl Gottlieb’s film (the only feature the Jaws co-writer ever directed) accessible to kids. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr plays a scrawny, bullied caveman named Atouk, who longs for the lovely Lana (Barbara Bach), the mate of the hulking Tonda (the late, former NFL defensive lineman John Matuszak). He joins a tribe of misfits (including Shelley Long and Dennis Quaid) and they endure a series of misadventures involving stop-motion animation dinosaurs and even the abominable snowman. But they also discover fire, music, weapons and cooking, and they learn to walk upright. There’s some grown-up humor here, but again, the characters aren’t using real words (“zug zug” means sex, for example) so kids may not catch everything they’re talking about. A T. rex gets high, but it’s a goofy bit. And Caveman features the mother of all poop jokes, which will make your kids giggle uncontrollably. Fine for viewers around 8 and older.
Watch now on: Vudu
Rating: PG-13, for intense science fiction terror.
If your kids haven’t seen any of the movies in the Jurassic franchise, going back to the beginning is a great place to start. Steven Spielberg’s original film remains far and away the best in the series. It’s thrilling and frightening, beautifully crafted and flat-out fun, and it understandably became a worldwide phenomenon. On Isla Nublar off the coast of Costa Rica, a brilliant and eccentric millionaire (Richard Attenborough) has developed a theme park where humans can roam among and learn from dinosaurs. They’re the product of cloned DNA, and they range from spry velociraptors to a massive T. rex. But of course, this paradise can’t last. Greed always gets in the way, eventually leading to mass chaos. The dinosaurs look extremely realistic, both in their physical details and the way they move. And because this is a Spielberg film, the tension is unbearable at times. It’s a classic, though, with a great cast including Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Samuel L. Jackson. Fine for viewers around 9 or 10 and older.