Best Flicks for Kids This Summer (and the Ones to Avoid!)

A must-read guide before heading to the theaters with the little ones

Ah, the unofficial start to summer: picnics and barbecues, soft-serve cones and the bevy of feature films for that summer afternoon or evening escape from the heat. But how do you know what’s right and what’s very wrong for the kids to watch?  I bet most parents have had that moment when they realized a movie was not at all age-appropriate a little too late.

For me, it happened with Annie, which I thought would be fine for my 5- and 3-year-old, but the constantly inebriated Miss Hannigan and the scary chase scene where Annie almost falls to her death pushed me to look at the rating on the DVD case.  When I saw PG-13, I thought, “This is not for my kids.”

In fact, our friends at Fandango recently conducted a poll in which 75 percent of respondents say they assume PG-13 rated movies should be suitable for their young children. At the same time, 78 percent felt that PG-rated films are featuring more adult content than ever before.

So what’s a parent to do? Common Sense Media, experts on what’s age-appropriate, gave us some insight into this season’s slate. Based on their analysis, here are a few of our recommendations:

For Kids 3- to 6-years-old
Winnie the Pooh (in theaters July 15). With a G rating, it’s great for preschoolers and promises to be a sweet one for the younger set anxious to see Pooh and his pals.

For Elementary School-Age Kids
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (pictured, above left; in theaters June 10). Rated PG-13, it is perfect for elementary schoolers and above -- especially ones who saw Ramona and Beezus last year and loved it. The kids (and parents) who are already fans of the Judy Moody books will love all the wacky hijinks in this flick.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (in theaters June 17). Starring Jim Carrey and rated PG-13, this should be a crowd pleaser. We can expect a bit of potty humor and maybe some language of the “hell” or “damn” variety, but overall it seems appealing and harmless with all those cute penguins.

Cars 2 (in theaters June 24). Rated G, this movie promises to be a great film for all ages, from the 7-year-olds to the tweens. And yes, with the animation, it’s one that even Mom and Dad will enjoy.

For Tweens and Teens
Green Lantern (in theaters June 17). Starring Ryan Reynolds, last year’s Sexiest Man Alive in People, it’s likely to be a must-see film for comic fans and for fans of the Hollywood hunk. It is rated PG-13, so expect superhero action and violence, but not overly sexual content.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (in theaters July 1). This movie is really best for teens, but tweens will likely want to see it too, because of the popularity of the toys and TV shows. Parents need to gauge whether their kids are ready for this one. Expect constant action mayhem; plus, hero Sam has a hot new girlfriend, so there may be some sexual situations. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (pictured, above right; in theaters July 15). This is the last in the Potter series and promises to be action-filled -- and dark, with characters dying and beloved locations destroyed. Plus, Harry is growing up and making adult decisions. While your 7- or 10-year-old may be an enormous Harry Potter fan, it might be too much for them. This might be one to rent at home later on. If your tween insists, you should think about going with your child just in case.

Follow Kelly Wallace on Twitter: @kellywallacetv

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