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…
So be warned – SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP!
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 MommaSaid.net, 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