Shannon Hale, mother of four, best-selling author and the brains behind this summer's "Austenland," wrote the screenplay for the period romance with a broad audience in mind. But when the actors arrived and began to ad-lib, some of the innuendo that made it into the final cut of the movie earned the film a PG-13 rating.
"My kids had never seen a PG-13 movie before but I knew my kids well enough to know that the innuendo would go right over their heads, because they were of the age and sensibility that they wouldn’t get it," Hale said. "So I let them see 'Austenland.' What they got out of it — you know, they're far younger than the target audience, but it's still such a colorful movie. It's just candy colored and it's such a spectacle that I think they really enjoyed that. And there's a lot of broad comedy as well and some physical comedy and I think kids can get that."
Choosing a film for your family is a daunting task — one that requires an extra effort if you don't want to be surprised by inappropriate content. Review sites like ok.com, Movie Mom and Kids in Mind are designed to help viewers make informed decisions about films — and it never hurts to ask around.
"We rarely get out to something opening weekend so we just hear from people that we know what they’re liking, and people talk about it on Facebook or Twitter and that’s how I find it," Hale said. "You know, I think part of it is we know our kids so well. So we know how much they can take."
What else from this summer's box office will kids enjoy? Check out these six family friendly films for some of the best. We consulted family film experts from Movie Mom, Kids in Mind and ok.com to get the scoop on which summer movies are worth renting come fall and winter.
'Despicable Me 2'
The sequel to the adorable story of a villain-turned-adoptive-father to three orphans was highly anticipated, and the wait was worth it. "Despicable Me 2" earned the second slot in box office totals for the summer, grossing more than $350 million.
"Oh, I just love those little girls," Hale said. "I think they’re darling. There’s a little girl especially who is obsessed with unicorns and I thought they were just fun. And then the dad character, Gru, you know, I think our children are used to having a large, slightly creepy father, so I think they identify with that."
The major theme of family prevailed in "Despicable Me 2," this time focusing on finding a mother for the orphans to grow their family and share their love. Ok.com, which allows users to rate movies on whether they are "worth your time," gave "Despicable Me 2" a 95 percent rating.
DVD release date: TBD (Estimated December 2013)
A movie about a little snail who wants to be speedy didn't garner much critical attention, but "Turbo" had some great themes of triumph and determination.
"I actually thought that 'Turbo' was underappreciated," said Nell Minow, better known as Movie Mom. "It was kind of a classic story of somebody who has what appears to be an impossible dream and doesn't get a lot of support from the family but is willing to take a real risk and pursue it."
Minow, who has been reviewing movies from a family friendly standpoint since 1995, is the author of "The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies" and writes current film reviews on Beliefnet, pointed out a trend this summer — snails are the new penguins.
"There were adorable animated snails that really were the highlight of the movie 'Epic.' There was a very cute animated snail in 'Monsters University,' and, of course, the star of 'Turbo' was a snail. So I'm not sure if one year we sort of had a penguin thing and this year it seems to be snails."
DVD release date: TBD (Estimated November 2013)
This prequel to the beloved Pixar film drew a monstrous crowd of kids and parents alike. The movie, Minow warned, has a bit of a distressing ending for those with a pro-education stance, but kids will enjoy the movie just the same.
"There is that appeal of sequels ... you know, hey, we’ve seen the first one, let’s see what else they’re up to now," Hale said.
The film's ultimate message of friendship, teamwork and reaching your goals will resonate with parents — and inspire youngsters as well. One hundred percent of users on ok.com rated "Monsters University" as worth their time.
DVD release date: Oct. 29, 2013
'Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters'
"Particularly with 'Percy Jackson,' the kids that I talked to were really inspired to find out more about Greek and Roman mythology," Minow said. "And I liked the fact, also, that they got very strong female characters and that they really have groups of kids who work very well together."
Patty Inglish, who reviews films at Kids In Mind, makes families and the well-being of children her priority as she watches new movies.
She agreed that the merits of the Percy Jackson sequel include the great friendships among the characters — boys and girls alike.
DVD release date: TBD (Estimated December 2012)
For older kids, this portrayal of Jackie Robinson's ascent to baseball fame amid racial tension is a great springboard for a discussion about our country's history with civil rights.
"Parents need to know that there are some very ugly moments in the film," Minow said. "It's really important to alert kids to be prepared for that. There's a scene with some very, very ugly racial epithets and there's a lot of racist behavior that may come as a shock to them. But (there are) wonderful performances, and one of the things that I thought was really great about it is that it was a fabulous portrayal of a very strong marriage, and I think that's always nice for kids to see."
DVD release date: Currently available (Released July 2013)
A work of historical fiction, "The Butler" chronicles a man who works in the White House through numerous presidencies — and his perspective as a constant figure in a changing world on the leaders of the free world.
"I think it gets people thinking about the White House and people that work in it," Inglish said. "Especially kids probably have no idea about what it takes to run the White House and how many people work there."
Inglish also notes that the spousal relationship in the movie is inspiring and well worth watching.
DVD release date: TBD (Estimated January 2014)