Photo: MarvelThere's no way on earth if your children watch TV that they are unaware of "Marvel's The Avengers" and even that it's opening this weekend. From Avengers toddler's slip-on canvas shoes to the Lego Marvel Superheroes Quinjet to Iron Man action figures, a simple trip to Target has already saturated your kid with Marvel marketing. So: Should you take the heirs to this PG-13 rated movie? That's going to be a "yes" — and I don't think you have to wait until they're thirteen despite the official rating (and one off-hand reference to "weed").
Sex: I don't know about your kids, but in my household (my kids are now 12 and 16 but we've been watching movies since they were nursing), overt sexuality is the tipping point for whether they should see a movie. Is there boobage? No. Cleavage? Yes. But I don't think that any child seeing Gwyneth Paltrow flirting with Robert Downey Jr. while wearing hot pants, or the voluptuous Scarlett Johansson tied to a chair by villains while wearing a skin-tight cat suit will be at all upset. Face it: you've seen your kid in the bathtub. They're curious. But they don't need to be exposed to any graphic sexual content — and that just doesn't exist in "The Avengers." How do you know when it's too much? They flinch, or say "gross!"
Violence: There's comic-book violence and then there's "Saving Private Ryan." Your kids probably know the difference in very broad strokes. Let's take The Hulk, who inflates to a giant green mass of toddler rage when he gets angry. When he takes a villain and thumps him back and forth and back and forth on the ground, he's like a tantrum-tossing three-year-old with a stuffed bunny. This is both funny and true and certainly not threatening. There are none of those aspects that make it seem hyper real, like entrails, or body parts, or corpses. Yes: There is a large body count, and massive destruction of civic property, but even a child can tell that this is happening in cartoon world, in the same realm as "Tom and Jerry" (as opposed to the raunchier "Ren and Stimpy"). And no superheroes were actually harmed in the making of this film.
General Scary Factor: I would call this the "will your kids be able to sleep at night after seeing the movie" question. My kids wouldn't have been scared, even when they were seven and eight. (OK, with my kids, six would have been OK, too). But if you have a child who goes sleepless at the prospect of an alien-induced apocalypse — and you know who you are — there's no harm, no foul. See the movie yourself and, when it comes out on VOD, you can make that decision. Movies are not broccoli; don't force it. If you have a child who tends to be on the more fearful spectrum, don't force them to see a hyper-stimulating adventure. There's no nutritional upside. Even though the tickets are pricey when you add in kids and nosh, be prepared to walk if something triggers angst in your child. It may just be that they didn't get enough sleep the night before, or ate all the Gummy Bears in the first five minutes and are in a sugar slump. Also, some kids don't have the attention span to sit out a movie like this one that clocks in at well over two hours.
What "The Avengers" does have is a lot of entertainment and action that works on many levels, some childishly innocent and some adult-friendly snark. And the underlying theme that we must work together, finding our inner strengths and blending them — even if we're The Hulk, Black Widow, Iron-Man, Thor et al — is a strong and positive message that can be talked about on the ride home from the movie theater along with the simple joy of saying "Hey, wasn't that cool!"