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Chris Hicks: How much PG-13 violence is too much for your pre-teen kids?

How much is too much when it comes to violence in movies that are clearly aimed at kids?

Let’s not beat around the bush here. It’s obvious that the level of violence in live-action movies that are meant to attract youngsters has gone way up in the past, oh, let’s say, two decades. And it was worrisome back then.

I’m not talking about 13-, 14-, 15-, 16- or 17-year-olds now, but younger children, pre-teens, or tweens, as we now like to say.

Not that all of this violence is good for teenagers either, but for the purposes of this column, let’s just consider younger children who attend PG-13 movies.

Do your kids see all the big superhero pictures? The Marvel Avengers team in their joint efforts as well as their individual films, such as “Iron Man,” “Thor,” “Captain America,” “Hulk,” etc.? Or the DC films, like “Man of Steel,” the Dark Knight trilogy, etc.? Or the teens-fighting-to-survive-in-a-dystopian-society pictures, the Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner franchises, etc.?

Do they see them in a theater with stereo sound amping up the adrenalin rush of carnage on a 40-foot screen (or bigger if it’s in IMAX, and overloading the senses even more if it’s in 3-D)? And later do they watch them over and over with friends after they are on video platforms?

All of this came to mind a couple of weeks ago when my wife and I watched a trailer for “Jurassic World,” which opens today.

As the violence being shown became louder and harsher during the just-under-three-minutes trailer — and we’re talking about the somewhat muted violence allowed in a trailer designed for “all audiences” — my wife leaned over and asked, “Is this one rated R?” I looked puzzled and she said, “I mean, it just looks so much more violent.”

Did she mean more violent than what we see today or more violent than the other Jurassic Park films in a franchise that began 22 years ago? “Both,” she said.

Fair question.

When “Jaws” came out in 1975 and received a PG rating, there was a large hue and cry over the film. Many parents felt it was awfully violent for a PG-rated movie. So the folks who rate movies came up with an odd distinction to explain away their decision. They saw “animal-to-human violence” as less troublesome than “human-to-human violence.”

That was 40 years ago, and at the time there was no PG-13 rating. So it was PG or R, and no one felt that “Jaws” rose to the level of an R.

By the time “Jurassic Park” came around in 1993, the PG-13 had been in force for nearly a decade and the dinosaur epic sailed through with a PG-13 — but not without controversy.

So, in 1993, when I went to Los Angeles for “Jurassic Park’s” premiere and to interview the stars and filmmakers, I decided to put forward a question to each one about the film’s level of violence, and whether it was appropriate for young ones. Here are some excerpts from the resulting Deseret News story:

Co-star Samuel L. Jackson: “Well, it depends on whether your kid thinks all dinosaurs are Barney. You have to have kids who know that all dinosaurs aren’t these nice, cuddly things that come by your house and sing songs. My daughter (age 11) knew that and she wanted to see it, and she enjoyed the ride — but she came and slept with us that night anyway.”

Co-star Sam Neill: “I have three kids. One’s too young to see any movie and I have two that are 9 and 11. And they’re going to have the time of their lives.”

Producer Kathleen Kennedy: “Six to 8 is a very questionable age range. But on the other hand I’m not going to say that a 7- or 8-year-old shouldn’t see this movie. I think it’s up to the parent. There are certain younger children who will be fine with this movie and others who won’t."

Author Michael Crichton: “This is a parental decision. I would say, below 6 it’s an immediate ‘No.’ Above 8 or 9, it’s, ‘Why not?’ … If the parents restrict exposure, which a lot of parents also do, then my suggestion is, go see the movie yourself and decide whether you want your kid to see it. But I think there is absolutely an issue about this picture, that it is not suitable for very young children, and my kid (age 4) is not going to see it and she’s very unhappy.”

Good advice for “Jurassic Park”; good advice for “Jurassic World.”

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.