What is a “family movie”?
Lately, the term “family movie” is often used as a euphemism for a “children’s movie” or “children’s movie with a few off-colour jokes thrown in”.
In the old days, whole families would watch the same programming: there was only one television or radio and only so many channels. As a result, these programs had to appeal to a wide audience, from grandparents to toddlers.
Strictly speaking, a “family movie” is one that appeals to at least two generations at once. I would go so far as to call something a “family movie” if it appeals to everyone except for small children. Sure, those of different ages get something different out of the program. An older person might think that the program reinforces family values. A teenager might be drawn to the gossip. A child might be interested in the action sequences.
Some of the hallmarks of a family movie (and not a “children’s movie”) include the following:
a) General cleanliness — off-colour jokes are kept at a minimum, while others are confined largely to suggestion or wordplay.
b) Large ensemble cast, often playing a family — that way, there are characters of varying ages for the audiences to relate to — the kids will like the kids, the young adults will like the young adults, and the adults will like their own ages. Bonus points if you include senior citizens.
c) Conservatism — in order to avoid offense, the films usually have a moral theme, and often the implication is that so-called “family values” will be promoted.
d) Being enjoyed by anyone of all ages — Grandma will watch a the movie while in her eighties, while the five-year-old great-granddaughter sits on her lap, both of them engrossed in the show or film.
e) Generally suitable for anyone to watch, with the exception of very small children.
For me, watching television is a family outing. Therefore, I don’t see the point of having a whole family watch a film that they are not going to like because they have to watch something “for the kids.” Kids are surprisingly resilient and curious.