I struggle to find films that all my children can enjoy together: there isn’t much that pleases a 3-year-old and an 11-year-old, and if there is we’ve probably already watched it, which means that the 3-year-old would like to see it seven hundred more times, please, and the 11-year-old never wants to see it again. The only ones that have really worked are animated films (visually entertaining for the littler ones) with a few this-one’s-for-the-parents jokes and references to keep the oldest interested: the Despicable Me films, Sing, Inside Out, and so on. But since the youngest stopped napping, we can sometimes get him to bed at 6pm and let the three older ones watch a film together, which is a very slightly easier task since the 5-year-old is keen to be counted as one of the Big Children so won’t complain even if she’s bored or lost, if she’s being allowed to watch with her sisters.
A friend was telling me the other day that, based on fond childhood memories, she sat her smallish children down in front of Ghostbusters, only to spend the whole film having to explain things, or strategically distracting them from the really inappropriate bits. I found this hard to believe – Ghostbusters was a kids film! – until my husband and I watched it (without children) and took about twenty seconds to agree that we wouldn’t be showing it to the children any time soon. Anyway, you’d think this would have reminded me to be a little more careful… but when I saw Little Shop of Horrors in a second hand shop, I remembered really enjoying it many years ago. Vague memories of song and dance routines, a gigantic plant, aliens – and it’s PG, so it must be fine. Once the littlest was in bed, we got settled in so I could paint the children’s nails (holiday treat, because school doesn’t allow nail varnish) while they watched. It took a while to get going, but they liked the singing and dancing, and didn’t pay too much attention to the fact that Audrey’s boyfriend keeps attacking her. Then we spent a while with the sadistic dentist, who I’d totally forgotten – the two oldest have both recently had to have dental work, but didn’t seem too worried by the violent man with the scary tools, though a bit baffled by Bill Murray as the masochistic customer. Then there was a little bit of murdering – I had a vague recollection of the plant comically gobbling a person up whole, but had wiped out the attempted murder followed by accidental death, then dismemberment with an axe. All done in a very silly and overblown way, and much of it offscreen, but not the thing to be dwelling on just before bed. Almost in unison, the three of them said “This isn’t very nice, is it? Can we turn it off?”. Which we did, and tried to find a nice episode of something cheerful on CBBC to take the taste away, but unfortunately out internet connection was playing up so we settled for eating Easter eggs while putting the final layers of glitter onto their painted nails.
Previously I’ve found www.commonsensemedia.org really helpful, and just didn’t think to check this time because I thought I remembered the film well enough. Oh well, everyone has gone happily to sleep with multicoloured fingernails, so no long-term harm done.