Family movie night at the Mondale/Patton home in Chevy Chase is not always simple.
There's Sophie, 14 and a freshman at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, who likes to watch lots of things, especially teen comedies such as "50 First Dates," says her mom, Sarah Patton.
Then there's Freddy, 12, a seventh-grader at Westland Middle School, who could watch "Lord of the Rings" (PG-13) over and over again -- and has.
And there's Charlotte, 6, who wouldn't choose teen comedies or "Lord of the Rings," but who has seen a lot more than her older siblings saw at her age.
Finally, there's Nelson, the baby in the house. He's not a factor yet, but one of these days he will have opinions about movies, too.
"We go on a case-by-case basis," says Sarah Patton. "I used to be a lot stricter about it."
Different families have different rules. Jane Easton wasn't allowed to watch PG-13 movies until she turned 12 this year. Now her mom's rule is no R-rated movies. But that's different from the rules that some of her friends' parents have.
"Lots of kids see R movies," says Jane, who is in seventh grade at Holton-Arms School in Bethesda. "Half the time their parents just don't know." Her friends like "The Breakfast Club," rated R, and the "Austin Powers" movies, rated PG-13. She hasn't seen any of those.
It was pretty difficult for her when she was not allowed to watch PG-13 movies, she says. She wouldn't tell her friends that she wasn't allowed, but she says she would often suggest something else and "that would be okay with them."
Says her mom, Jonell Easton: "I wanted to protect her from something she thought she might understand. She is still 12 years old. Her thinking is still evolving."
For example, Jane's mom is worried about images in some movies that glamorize drug dealers. And she is very concerned about violence. Even now, Jonell Easton wants to check on PG-13 movies before her daughter sees them.
"I think it's really common that kids want to see some movies beyond their age ratings," says Jane.
Sarah Patton decided it was important for her children to see "Fahrenheit 9/11," an R-rated movie about terrorism with an opinion that was very much against President Bush. "We didn't get to the end," she says. "The first hour was fine, but when we got to the Iraq stuff, it was tough. We stopped, but it was probably too late." She says there were some very graphic and disturbing scenes.
Then there was the night they watched "Meet the Parents," rated PG-13. Six-year-old Charlotte started crying when a character got a bloody nose after being hit in the face with a volleyball. To everyone else it was funny. To Charlotte it was too real and scary.
Freddy watches the PG-13 "Lord of the Rings" movies regularly at home on video. He says he is not scared by them because he has read the books and "I knew what was happening."
He thinks that the people who put the labels on the movies "over-rate them. There are lots of things that are PG-13 that should be PG. It might be a good movie, but the only problem is that someone is using a gun and somebody dies. They could not make it as dramatic and rate it PG."
-- Ellen Edwards