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Is 'Up' Really for Kids?

The dogs and the gun. Those were the parts of the new animated movie "Up" that my 5-year-old and his friend found scary. That's not to say that the movie wasn't a hit with all the kids. My younger one has already memorized a couple of scenes and can't stop cawing like Kevin the mom bird. In fact, he's currently responding to the name "Kevin" rather than his given name. And 7-year-old also said he liked it, though he had no laugh out loud moments.

So, clearly, the film made an impact. Still, neither boy really followed the subplot of Carl Fredrickson and Ellie. As my husband and I sat discussing what we thought were pretty adult plots of Carl and Ellie's life and her death before achieving her dreams, the 7-year-old looked at us like we were crazy. Turns out, he had never figured out that they were married. Apparently, the Pixar folks were a little too subtle for the likes of a first-grader.

But back to those dogs. They bared sharp teeth. The chased ferociously. They looked downright scary. Of course, I could have listened to Jane Horwitz's Family Filmgoer review and not taken them, but Pixar movies really are usually too fabulous to miss and quite kid-friendly.

The two 5-year-olds also found the plot of the hero Charles Muntz turned mean and scary, particularly when he took out a gun to shoot at the good guys. Unlike "Finding Nemo," in which the scary part of the shark eating the mom and babies can be skipped on DVD without small kids noticing, it would be impossible to weed out some of the scarier plots on DVD for young children. They are too intertwined with the movie.

Thankfully, my boys didn't seem to notice the tree slicing through Karl and Ellie's house (which did make both my husband and me cringe).

Overall, we left happy that we'd seen the movie, but really wondering if this was made for kids or adults. What did you think of it?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 1, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
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My 4 year old was scared of all the thunderstorms (a big one for him in real life). It was too bad that the cute cloud opener (Partly Cloudy) also had one!

He also was terrified of the ending chase scene. He liked the bird and the dog and the balloons, but I don't know that he could tell one thing about the plot.

I really loved it though.

Posted by: mdem929 | June 1, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

This is why the movie is rated PG, not G. It calls for parental investigation which, naturally, should have occurred before you took your children to the movie. This is what's known as "parenting".

Posted by: leaping_gnome | June 1, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this right. You are surprised when a PG movie has some scary stuff, and question whether you should have taken your kids?

And you write a parenting column?


There are plenty of ways to check a movie before you go. And yes - the rating is a CLUE!

Posted by: martintomsal | June 1, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse rates this movie ok for kids 6 and up, though I think it is not a movie for kids that young. My husband and I saw it this weekend and we came out saying that it is not a movie for children. (I don't believe any of the recent Pixar movies are really targeted towards children, actually.) There were enough scary things (the dogs, the gun, the guy falling off the cliff) that I will not allow my kids to see it until they are much older. There is an underlying sadness to the movie that kids won't appreciate or understand but makes it so well done for adults to enjoy.

Posted by: musingmom | June 1, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I took my 9 year old son, and we both felt the sad undertones of Ellie's death and the sense of unrealized dreams. But then again, it was a PG rating and I was prepared for some sadness or scariness. My 9 year old liked it, and so did I. I would hesitate to take a 5 or 6 year old though. Up dealt with more serious issues than some of the other Pixar films. I tend to think these movies are made for both adults and kids, but this particular one was geared at kids who are a bit older than the tot crowd. Hence the PG rating. But if you choose to ignore the rating, don't blame the movie. That seems a little much.

Posted by: emily8 | June 1, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I was surprised how many of the moms I know took their 3-4 year olds to see Up. I was scared off by the PG rating, and I don't plan on taking my 3.5-year-old.

Posted by: newsahm | June 1, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, I'm happy to see something that has something for everyone. The entertainment has become so stratified by age and gender that there are few things that the whole family can enjoy. Loony Toons are a good example of something fun for the kids with lots of funny bits for the adults. That said, parents really need to understand that just because something is animated doesn't mean it is intended for little kids.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | June 1, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I took my kids...6& see this. It was definatly a kids movie. My kids were not scared al at all! They loved it...and my daughter did cry a little when Ellie did she understood what was going on. Im a little amazed that this movie scared was a few mean dogs. But, we dont really censor any movies from our kids.

Posted by: Jennyfer | June 1, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

The only Pixar movie I would say is definitely NOT for children is The Incredibles, which contains a lot of violence including torture, as well as suggestions of marital infidelity. Coincidentally (or not), this film is Pixar's definitive masterpiece -- a strong family drama with amazing action, a wonderful story line, gorgeous design elements, and the best animation Pixar ever pulled off. Along with the two Toy Story movies, Cars, Wall-E, and probably Ratatouille, these movies are the Dumbo, Bambi, and Snow White of our generation, and make every Dreamworks movie look amateurish in comparison.

My wife and I saw Up last Friday. This movie contains two beautiful bookend scenes involving Carl and Ellie which will make this an enduring classic for adults, but these scenes will go right over the heads of children a lot older than six. During the first of these sequences, you could have heard a pin drop in the theater. I think kids will love the action and the gorgeous scenery, though. I wouldn't bring my three-year-old grandson to see this movie, but I think a 5 or 6-year-old kid would have no problem with it. There are a few scary chases and a thunderstorm, and some physical violence between two old men, but by today's standards I would not call this a violent movie. Personally I found the plot to be a bit thin, but this film's exposition of the relationship between Carl and Ellie makes it an instant classic. I highly recommend this film -- it's just not for pre-schoolers...

Posted by: jerkhoff | June 1, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I gave up on taking my kids to any movies a long time ago... Hollywood's idea of "child appropriate" and mine have no relationship to each other.

If I haven't sat through it, they generally don't see it... and my children are age 8 and 12... I'm sure that will change in the next few years, but for now I'm proud of the fact that my kids get terrified by Hollywood product... it tells me that they are sane and that I'm doing something right.

Parents who would march their kids into some theater based on a movie rating and a review are practicing a parenting style that I can't begin to relate to. When they brag that their kids had no problem with this or that loud, violent or mature movie I look at them and think "what are you proud of? That you've desensitized them to an adult level?"


But where do tomorrow's rapacious capitalists, angry soldiers, and toleraters of war crimes and torture come from? I think I know.

Posted by: mike777r | June 1, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

"But where do tomorrow's rapacious capitalists, angry soldiers, and toleraters of war crimes and torture come from? I think I know.

Nice slam, I'm sure you're a real peach at a BBQ.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 1, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

What do I think? I think the movie was great.

I also think I had to double check to see If I was reading the onion or the wash. post. I feel so sorry for your kids. They are most certainly headed for a long career in middle management at best. Really, you hide the existence of thunderstorms from them? What do you tell them at night when they see the lightning? Do you not take them outside for fear they may see a dog's teeth? Wow. Did your parents do that to you? You are really damaging your kids by trying to be the censor board. I went to see Stripes with my dad when I was 8. I did not join the Army, invade Czechoslavakia or steal an armored vehicle. The only lasting effect may be that I still enjoy seeing women in the shower and I have been known to say "that's a fact Jack" from time to time.

Well, I better let you go put you kids in suits of armor so they can ride their tricycles. Make sure they ride them on a padded surface and clean the handlebars off with disinfectant first. And heads up- hurricane season starts today- better not let them see the wind blowing in the trees.

Posted by: Rileymrtn | June 1, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"When they brag that their kids had no problem with this or that loud, violent or mature movie I look at them and think "what are you proud of? That you've desensitized them to an adult level?" "

How sanctimonious can a man be about keeping his 12 year old figuratively swathed in bubble-wrap? When your kid at 21 can't figure out a subway map or is scared to sleep in a tent at a National Park, we will know why. What a pity to hamstring your kids.

Posted by: anonfornow | June 1, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

"Nice slam, I'm sure you're a real peach at a BBQ."

Hey, as Cohen sang, "...I have many friends, and some of them are with me."

I guess my obligation to keep faith with those I love ranks higher than my interest in popular culture.

Posted by: mike777r | June 1, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

I saw it, and even though it had the PG rating, I took my 4 year old and 7 year old. Overall, I thought it was a good movie, but I don't think I would recommend it for families with young children. My children did not understand the "flashback" scene. My 7 year old had totally missed that the kids were the adults who married, and she didn't understand that Ellie had died. She also asked about the court scene where Mr. Frederickson is committed to the retirement home. And they were both scared during the dog hunting scenes and the gun shot scenes -- heck, I was scared. Nonetheless, my kids did seem to enjoy the outing with me, and they are still talking about the parts of the movie they liked -- which included Kevin the mama bird.

Please quit criticizing Stacey about taking her kids to a PG movie. Oh yeah -- I forgot -- this blog is all about judging everybody else on their parenting skills. I took my kids to see Despereux (sp?) which was G, but after watching it, I thought it was way too scary for a G rating. The rats looked and were mean, and they ate mice, and they had tied down the Princess and were planning to eat her until the mouse saved her. I would have rated that movie PG. In fact, I think my kids were more scared during that movie than Up.

Posted by: SilverSpringMom1 | June 2, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

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