Die Hard, Teen Boys and Age Appropriate Action Films

Die Hard, starring Bruce WillisMy 13yo son G’s life is a bit confusing. He goes to a school that discourages media consumption but his best friend has a TV and Xbox in his room. He lives part time with a mom who doesn’t have cable and thinks media is uniformly bad unless it’s from the 70s or earlier (he’s seen every episode of The Brady Bunch, G-d help him), and even then, well, everyone’s life would be better if all media just *poof* vanished.

And, of course, he lives with me and I’m a professional film critic and not only see movies before they’re released, but I also get DVDs in the mail every week, often “R” action films — the latest wave are all Chinese martial arts dramas — that no-one’s even heard of. Did someone say ninja?

He’s 13. Not 10, not 7, not a little kid any more.

When he turned 13 I said “great, now you can watch PG-13 movies”, but in fact we’ve been watching MPAA rated PG-13 movies for a while, and now we’ve started delving into R-rated action classics and having a good time together.

Last weekend we enjoyed Beverly Hills Cop (and I’d forgotten how incredi-f’ing-ly many times Eddie Murphy uses the f-word in that movie) and I told him that the other classic action films we needed to watch included the Die Hard series and the Rush Hour series. They’re all a great blend of action, adventure and comedy, a combination that modern action films seem to fumble terribly.

He’s still a bit more sensitive than he’d like to admit about “creepy” movies so more aggressive films like The Terminator I might wait on for a while, but that perfect combination of action + comedy, it’s what I feel is perfect for a 13yo boy to watch with his dad. (which isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot of moms who enjoy action films, I just feel they’re less likely to let a 13yo watch these films than dad. I could well be wrong and look forward to your comments if that’s the case)

As an example, his 16yo sister and I have started watching Bates Motel, but I believe it’s a bit too graphic for G-‘s more sensitive brain, so he’s accepted that it’s not something we’ll watch with him. Then again, I am a big fan of Game of Thrones and don’t think either teen should be watching it and am a tad frustrated that both have seen episodes. My take: that’s wayyy off the acceptable list. But as every parent knows, you can’t monitor and control what they watch every hour of the day.

Last night we started watching Die Hard, the original – and best – of the series, and got about 45min into the movie before I stopped it. A school night, after all. And it was great fun to watch, it’s such a well-assembled movie with Bruce Willis really inventing the role of the smart-ass but highly capable hero-cop and of course it’s just delightful to watch Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber, the droll, sophisticated bad guy just dripping with malice. He’s actually one of my favorite bad guys in any action film and it’s a character against which I measure every other action film bad guy. You can absolutely hear the same speech patterns Rickman so memorably brought to the role of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series.

We’ll watch the rest of the movie over the weekend and I know he’s going to love the signature line (it starts with “yippee-ki-ya”) and I’ll just hope he doesn’t start using it either at school or at his mom’s house!

What other action comedies are out there that aren’t quite as visceral as the latest crop of really graphic “R” films (I thought films like The Other Guys and The Watch were both ghastly bad) and would be films to add to our short list for viewing? Films we can watch and share, perhaps with his big sister, or perhaps just a special activity for the two of us…

2 comments on “Die Hard, Teen Boys and Age Appropriate Action Films

  1. If you’re watching R-rated films, Pulp Fiction and other Tarantino classics shouldn’t be far off. I think I was 14 when I saw Pulp Fiction.

  2. Predator comes to mind.

    The 80s seem far better in retrospect, movie wise. The stories aren’t as overtly complicated, the action isn’t as annoyingly intense, and we had some true blue movie stars hard at work (Stallone, Murphy, Ah-nold…)

    Twins? Kindergarten Cop? Haven’t seen either in a while, but I don’t remember them being too rough.

    Sounds like you’re walking the right path with your kids re: the content. A father’s hunch is often the best measuring stick.

    I’m sooo tempted to trot out some of my favorite films to watch with my son, but he’s only four and I still regret taking him to see The Avengers. Just too intense for a little one even though the language wasn’t rough and we didn’t have any wardrobe malfunctions to speak of.

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