Should "Marley & Me" be rated PG-13?

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Tue, Dec 30 - 1:49 pm EDT | 10 years ago by
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marleyandme1 My 11-year-old daughter and I saw "Marley & Me" last night, and I’ll be posting a review on it shortly.

It’s based on the true story of writer John Grogan (Owen Wilson) and his wife, Jenny (Jennifer Aniston), following their life together as they move to Florida, have three kids, and adopt a rambunctious dog named Marley who completely disrupts their lives. John calls him "the world’s worst dog," but they love him anyway. 

"Marley & Me" is billed as a family movie, but there’s a lot of content that, in my view, pushes it from a PG rating to a PG-13 rating.

For those who don’t want to know any spoilers about the movie, I’ll continue my commentary after the jump…


marley-me-1 Included in the storyline:

Marley dies. Albeit, he lives a long life first, but the last 20 minutes are gut-wrenching, both for the Grogan family and for moviegoers. The plot includes kids writing sad notes to Marley and laying them in the dog’s grave, on top of his body covered up in a blanket. We also see the dad take Marley to the vet and sit with him while he’s put to sleep. We see the injection going into Marley, and him closing his eyes and drifting off, as the dad weeps.

A girl gets stabbed. The Grogans live in a neighborhood in Florida with a high crime rate. A young neighbor-girl (presumably a teenager) gets stabbed as she’s coming home one night, and her parents aren’t there. The Grogans hear her screams, and John goes next door to find her bleeding in the driveway, while Jenny calls 911. The way it’s played out, it’s also a little unclear whether the girl’s been raped or not.

Sex is implied. Much of the story involves the Grogan family trying to have babies. While we don’t see any sexual activity, there’s some pre-sex scenes (the couple in bed at home, in a creaky bed at an Irish inn), Jenny takes multiple pregnancy tests, suffers a miscarriage, and swims seductively in the nude in a pool, telling John to dive in and collect his "birthday present." Also, John’s best friend (Eric Dane) is a lecherous guy who has all sorts of girlfriends and uses John’s dog – and later, his baby – to get girls’ attention.

Jenny Grogan loses it while staying home with the kids. She decides to quit her reporter job and stay home to raise the kids. But while the babies are small, she has a bit of a breakdown, gets angry at Marley for being rambunctious in the house, and tells John to "get rid of that dog!"

None of the above seems appropriate for young kids – OR a PG rating. My friend, Pamela Oldham, who writes on a variety of topics, including family and child issues, has some good thoughts to say on the matter:

"The industry just keeps lowering the standards for PG, not because the movies are appropriate for that age group, but because that’s the financial sweet spot. Animals dying and girls getting stabbed deeply affect children, even if the impact is not immediately apparent."

Pam says she doesn’t buy into the notion that kids are more sophisticated these days, nor that they seem to take previously objectionable scenes in stride.

"Those brain cells are in the midst of development, and the stuff kids are exposed to at a young age, even when we think the concepts are too complex for their understanding, shapes them far more than we realize. Although brain development continues through age 25, the greatest amount of brain development occurs before the age of 10, and that’s why kids in the G to PG age range are especially vulnerable."

Also, my friend, Jen Singer of, blogged on her Good Housekeeping blog that movies intended for young kids are TOO SCARY for young kids. She writes, in particular, about the upcoming "Coraline." Read Jen’s Good Housekeeping blog here

What do you think? Is "Marley & Me" too intense for kids under the age of 13?

Images: Marley & Me, 20th Century-Fox Film Corp., 2008

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  • Julie Sturgeon

    Honestly, number one seems unnecessary even for adults. I was opposed to seeing this show because I don’t find it entertaining to fall in love with an animal and lose it in a span of only 2 hours. But to get graphic about it? Egad, I was crying just reading that. NO WAY will I pay $8 to see it.

  • Barb Freda

    I will see the movie–read the book and know how it ends…but your comments have easily decided me that I will NOT take my 12 y.o. to see it. This is not stuff I need to serve up to her on a silver platter by taking her to a movie like this. Not happy that they are marketing it like a family movie…

  • Jane Boursaw

    Julie – I know, right? Some movie critic friends who saw an advance screener warned me ahead of time, but I still bawled like a baby at the end. My daughter, however, seemed more cool and collected over it. I’m sure I embarrassed her to no end.

    Barb – Yeah, even though my daughter did better with the ending than me, I wouldn’t have taken her, had I known how heart-wrenching it would be. Heck, I probably wouldn’t have gone either. At this point, “Marley & Me” is ranking right up there with “Million Dollar Baby” and “Mystic River” in the “excellent movies I wish I’d never seen” category.

  • Meg

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that it should have been rated PG-13 due to the points you mention. I saw this movie with my 9 and 12 year old daughters on Christmas day and it was a huge disappointment for us. I read the adult version of the book and my daughters had read the kids’ version and LOVED them so we were eagerly anticipating a movie about MARLEY. I was hoping that, since John Grogan had written versions of his book all the way down to board books for toddlers and the ads were blatantly marketed to young children, that this would be a family movie but unfortunately it was more about the couple, sex and their stresses more than about Marley. My kids were prepared for Marley’s death but not all the sex and they were very uncomfortable many times. I think this is only for older children who know ‘the facts’ already and who aren’t overly sensitive to death. The director, producers and studio have sold out and ruined this potentially great movie for families, once again.

  • Manic Mommy

    The stabbing scene was very minimal. There wasn’t any gore or blood. John went over to sit with her. It appeared as if the girl got attacked getting out of her car; didn’t seem like she was raped. I took my 9-year-old to see it and didn’t think it was inappropriate. She knew going in to the movie that the dog was going to die. I also write movie reviews and did one for here if you want to see my version? It’s here:

    I don’t even like dogs or particular care either way for Jennifer Aniston, but I liked this movie a lot!

  • aleyda migaud

    I agree that this movie is not appropriate for kids. I took my 5 and 6 year old to watch and I felt like the language and the sex was not for a pg movie. Also I didn’t think the movie was that good at all. More than the death of marley, witch was long and boring, what bothered me was the language and the sexual scenes. It’s not really something you want young kids to see.

  • Manic Mommy

    FIve and six is definitely young to see this movie. Did you know the dog was going to die at the end? I’m sure your kids were very sad after seeing that!

  • Ok

    That movie was awsome! I think it’s fine being rated at PG. The ending was but it was great!

  • Ok

    That movie was awsome! I think it’s fine being rated at PG. The ending was sad but it was great!

  • Diana

    I believe they made a mistake by rating this movie PG. I think PG-13 would have been much more appropriate. Aside from the sex content and the mild violence, the last 20 minutes alone should have screamed PG-13 in the faces of the rating system! I loved the book AND the movie, I cried, my daughter (10) cried, so did the entire theater, but I do agree that it should have had the higher rating.

  • Sheila

    The stabbing scene was minimal to me, an adult. But my 10 year old was very upset by it. I’m not even sure he saw the dog die…he didn’t say one word about it. But he couldn’t sleep that night and he kept asking if we live in a neighborhood where a teenager could be stabbed. (Maybe because the actress resembles our babysitter.) He was distressed that he didn’t know what happened to her. He also gleefully noted “they sure do it a lot in this movie”. My 8 year old was very subdued afterwards and was deeply affected by JA’s character. Normally I do the research, but this time I just knew that cute puppy in the big red bow must be for kids.

  • bob joehanna

    this i the worst PG rated movie ever!! It was NOT AT ALL KID FRIENDLY!!! stabbing, and sexual content like skinny dipping. Good for 16 OR OLDER!! Don’t bring your kids to this movie under 16!!

  • Izzy

    this movie is NOT for kids. There’s a lot of language and… content that isn’t apporpriate for children. I would be much happier if this movie was PG13 so kids won’t get scarred for life or anything.

  • charlie

    Honestly,Im 17 and I still bawled my eyes out & so did my boyfriend.Ive read the book 2 times and both times ive cried at them.Yes the film isnt all about Marley,but it was showing you how he helped the family to learn to love unconditionally. If you have read the book you would understand. Ovbiously they cannot cram the whole book into a film.PG means parental guidence,so its up to the parents if they let thier child to see it if it was a family film It would be a U for universal. I dont remember any nudity in it,not excessive bad language at all,no gore,yeh the mild sex refrences but kids have gotta learn anyway lol,if all this was in it,it would of been higher than PG13.

  • charlie

    P.S, kids will find out anyway.

  • Sheila

    Its a parent’s responsibility to filter AND provide information as children grow; explaining and offering them guidance and safety. As children mature, some material’s age appropriateness does depend on the individual. Again, it is the parent’s job to try to manage that. Many topics in the media aren’t obtrusive because they are so prevalent. That doesn’t make them appropriate for young children. I won’t blindly accept what someone else tells me is ok for my family, but I do expect film makers to be honest in marketing and follow their own industry format for telling me about the content.

    Charlie, I gave you real life experience of how this movie embarrassed and disturbed my kids. Maybe when you have children you will understand.

  • carli

    Hi,i’m carli ummmm. lets just say i’m not 14 at but older than 10 almost .so um could i like watch this cause my mom is going to buy the MARLEY & ME MOVIE and i already read the book and there is nothing bad in it?!!?!? also just curious who is the director of the movie?

  • carli

    oh yeah um i read all the comments and CHARLIE i think your right i havent seen the movie yet but i’m going to and SHELIA uh yeah the worlds not perfect!
    plus i am going to be a director when i’m older so charlie you rule sheliah oh sheliah kids will learn bas they get older so PLEASE stop saying mean things about this movie! and you know what many things uh yeah will DISTURB your kids but they get over it! (trust me i know!)
    also whoever said they don’t like dogs well you should they have very cool perssonalitys!

  • Gretchen

    I just got done watching the movie, with my fiance’s four children. I had to shut off the television a few times. I kept debating whether or not they made a mistake by listing this movie as PG. I guess this is how sick the world is getting. PG-13 is the new 1990 raw R, nowadays. Rediculous. I truly wish someone would be able to do something about it! There is too much adult/teen written all in it. And the sad part is people, adults and children, don’t see the problem, because we’re all so used to the garbage that’s on even the daytime entertainment television! There is just too many unnecessary scenes, that could’ve really made it a somewhat family movie, but definately not a movie to be associated with PG.

  • Lorraine

    Okay, I’m 13. What the heck were the people that rated this movie thinking!!! I watched it alone, without any other people around, and the pre-sex scenes made even ME feel uncomftortable. I really thought this movie would be cute…

  • Judy

    This should definetely be rated PG13. It was promoted as a FAMILY movie, but much of it involves the pursuit of sex. My 7 year old grandaughter saw it, when I watched it with her I had the sense to turn it off, but how in the world does garner just a PG rating? Hollywood, you’re ridiculous!

  • Courtney

    I am 12 years old, and I don’t think it’s intense for me. BUT…it should be rated PG-13 cuz of all the stuff lil kids shouldnt see. PLUS, they have cuss words in the movie.

  • Latte

    I watched a lot of movies and television when I was younger that was rated higher than this movie and I really don’t feel like it affected me negatively. I think we just need to communicate with our children. I don’t really understand what seeing the types of things that are being complained about here does that is so awful? I just think the average child is exposed to a lot more within the dynamics of there own family. I think seeing this stuff in movies actually makes it a little less traumatic. Especially the death of the dog etc… It is true, we can only censor so much. What your 12 year olds talk about in school is so much worse that one they see in a movie…. get in touch with what’s really going on!

  • matt

    whom ever made that movie was obviously a bs artist

  • Sheryl

    I don’t know how many times I had to fast-forward the “bad” parts because it was very inappropriate for children. My daughter is 9 years old and was quite uncomfortable during these scenes. Also, just the other day at the summer recreation program, they were watching this movie and I did not know they were. If I had known I wouldn’t have let her go at all. This movie should definately be rated PG-13 or even “R”. It dragged on and on. Such a boring movie.

  • me

    I agree. Profanity is throughout the movie also. The whole time I was thinking, “this is PG?” I enjoyed it, but it should’ve been rated PG-13.

  • Mark

    My nine year old son had a hard time going to sleep after viewing the video, worrying about getting stabbed. He also complained that there was too much kissing. My twelve year old daughter thought there was too much kissing, too. Afterward, my wife and I discussed how much we liked the movie for us, but thought it was rated incorrectly and marketted inaccurately (although successfully). The movie is a good opportunity to introduce concepts like sex and safety issues to children, but it sure would be nice to have the heads-up in advance.

    As for the dog dying, it’s probably a good idea to introduce this concept to kids via a story (e.g., this film) rather than having them experience it cold turkey with their own dog. I saw Old Yeller as a kid, and I survived it.

  • marie

    i think it should be rated pg 13
    im ten and i had to fassforward stuff alot

  • Commentor

    I’m 12, and me and I had to turn the thing off, cause it was so bad. Def a PG 13! Sex, swearing and bad words, stuff like that. I stopped right in the middle of it. I would have been mature about it, but definitely NOT for 7 or 8 year olds. I had NO clue it would be that bad, hollywood!!!!

  • meee

    My six year old niece saw it! I am SSSOOOO mad at the producers for making this a PG movie. With out all of the swearing and the other content, it would have been a pretty good movie. And what’s with the person that got stabbed? I can’t believe that they called this PG. It couldn’t have been rated R, but it was definetaly a PG-13 movie. It DOES have an impact on kids. Once you see something like that, you just will never be the same. Also in the respect that you’ll be afraid that you’ll get stabbed, and if you have a dog, you will start getting so freaked out! I give this movie 0 stars, 1 star if you hold me at gunpoint.

  • The Time Travellers Husband

    I think the film should have been banned. It trawled levels of depravity never seen before in modern American cinema. The scene of Marley being put down; piece of cake, that was nothing. What was cruel was Jennifer wearing that John Mayer T Shirt! I think the sequel will be better: Marley and Me 2: Where Marley rips Brad and Ange’s throats out so they stop boring us with their crap. But the best scene is when Justin Breber walks into Marley’s grave falls down and is decapitated whilst singing baby baby. Forget The Hurt Locker, this is quality stuff.

  • Kat

    I understand the bits about the stabbing and the sex, but how would getting angry at a dog for destructive behavior and a pet’s death move it up to PG-13?

  • Sandra

    Bottom line, watch the movie before you bring kids to see it. Even U rated movies are unsuitable. I watch color me purple when I was young and that scarred me for life.

  • Kasyan

    of course it should be a pg, my son who is 8 watched it, and was fine, all be it a little sad at the end, but i think that its fine as a pg, its a great film, and i think everyone should have the pleasure of watching it! i think it could even be a U

  • sunshine

    i think that u can still watch this movie but u will have to explain first to the child about the stabbing and having the sex because they could be scared
    please explain to your child

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