Last week, inspired by Halloween, we ventured down a path discussing when it was appropriate to start sharing horror movies with your kids. This week, inspired by the release of Sam Mendes’ excellent Skyfall, we’re shifting the conversation in a completely different direction by talking 007.
Sexual innuendos. Shaken martinis. A license to kill. At first glance, the staples of Sir Ian Fleming’s lethal literary creation don’t seem suitable for kids. However, there’s a campy side to the long-running film series that – for a specific period – softened the blows of Bond and made the secret agent palatable for parents looking for introduce their kids to this world.
But where do you start? And at what age do you start, if at all? Let’s consult some secret-agent experts and figure out when you can start watching James Bond movies with your kids.
The bulk of the Bond movies actually were rated PG. And in comparison to today’s action movies, the sex and violence – while prevalent in a Bond story – are tame. Blood and guts are not common in a Bond movie. Nudity is suggested (as opposed to exploitedly shown, as we talked about in the horror genre).
In a similar column, the valuable website Movies4Kids singled out four Bond chapters that toned down the requisite sex and violence of the Bond template, making them somewhat safe enough for parents to screen with their kids. The movies they opted for were Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker and – surprisingly – Skyfall.
Roger Moore’s campy efforts in the 007 tux are fine selections. And the movies singled out by this site play up Bond’s most memorable villains, from Oddjob to Jaws. Honor Blackman may play Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, but are your kids going to get that joke? More than likely, they’ll be too busy reenacting the ski-chase scene from Spy Who Loved Me to be paying attention to Bond’s trademark double entendres.
HitFix columnist Drew McWeeny wisely started with The Spy Who Loved Me when he introduced his own boys to Bond for his Film Nerd 2.0 series.
“I think it might be the perfect gateway film to the series,” he writes. “The opening sequence features James Bond being ambushed by Soviet agents while he's enjoying a little canoodle in Austria, and it builds to one of the great practical stunts in the series. It sets a perfect tone, and if you're not onboard by the time he goes off the cliff and pops his parachute with the Union Jack printed on it, then you're just not wired to be a James Bond fan.”
Both sites bring up a bigger issue with the Bond films, and that’s pacing. While the franchise hangs its hat on eye-catching action sequences – which have improved a great deal as the series has matured, reaching its apex with Daniel Craig’s current run – no Bond movie is immune to the lengthy setup that’s largely appealing to adult audiences interested in intricate (but nonsensical) plots. Your kids will want to skip to the action, and so chapter surfing through the best Bond bits might be the way to go when crash course educating your kids on Bond.
Of course, there are parents who remain overprotective because they believe any imagery can influence their children into making poor choices when it comes to drinking and sex. Everyone parents differently. And research proves that a parent’s opinion regarding what a kid sees on-screen can be more impactful than what the child is actually looking at.
In Prevention magazine, responding to a Dartmouth study on kids movies and the influence of drinking, Dr. James Sargent concluded that it’s “unrealistic to think you can keep your kids from watching everything that depicts drinking, and seeing an occasional movie or TV show where people drink isn’t going to turn your kid into an underage lush. … Don’t let them watch age-inappropriate films, and talk to them about drinking and the consequences. No matter what they see on-screen, it’s a parent’s words that have the biggest impact in the long run.”
And that, in a nutshell, is the point we repeatedly make in the When Can I Watch column: Watch and discuss with your kids. It can only prove beneficial to all involved.
As for the proper age, most experts who’ve weighed in on the appropriateness of the Bond franchise pin a proper age somewhere between nine and 11, particularly if your child is interested in spies, gadgets, action sequences and larger-than-life heroes.
Are your kids asking about Bond? Are you thinking of diving into a few of the classic 007 films with them? And if so, which ones? I’d love to hear your feedback. Please share your thoughts below!
If you’d like to read previous entries in the "When Can I Watch That with My Kids?" series, click right here. Some of the films covered: Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Hugo, The Princess Bride, The Monster Squad and Elf, to name just a few.