When I was a kid growing up in Dubai, our house keeper, Anna, would leave a warm pot of chicken curry on the stove for us when we returned from abroad. We'd walk into the house tired from being on airplanes all day and be greeted to the smell of fresh curry.
As I got older I tried and tried to recreate that curry. I eventually made some really good curries. The trick is cooking the whole spices in hot oil first. I'll never forget the first time I made a bowl of curry that matched my memory. I stood in the kitchen tasting small bites, probing each morsel for false notes of taste and memory. I could find none and I began to cry. I had made Anna's curry.
To be sure, it was not her curry. It was a recreation based on my mother's notes, my memory of watching her make it, and the tastes and smells I remembered. It may not have been exactly what she made, but it was exactly what I remembered years later.
The Force Awakens was like that. We watched it and yes, there were some false notes here and there, but it aligned with our memory. It went beyond a good curry to one over which we could tell the stories of its creation and the fondness for the original.
Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi is a really good curry. You will enjoy it. But you might just leave the theater frustrated that it had too many false notes to be the curry you remembered. In fact, you will probably leave the theater uttering a heresy -- maybe they should have listened more to George Lucas.
Rian Johnson's version of Star Wars seems to resent being the second movie in a new Skywalker family trilogy. He wants to be done with the Skywalkers and he largely does move on in this movie. He does so in a way that made me a bit mad, in part because he set up Carrie Fisher to be the true hero and now she can't be. We learn that Princess Leia has a stronger connection to the Force than we ever imagined and will never see her potential.
At the same time, we find a Luke Skywalker unevolved from Return of the Jedi. He has seemingly learned nothing new. And in that we get more frustrations. You wanted to see an epic showdown between Luke and Kylo Ren? It doesn't happen like you've designed in your head. What about with Snoke? Nope.
In fact, as further examples of how the new Star Wars suffers by not having an overarching, comprehensive story in place to build around, The Force Awakens promises us strong hints of an interesting birth story for Rey. We don't get it. It promises us a deep answer to the mystery of Snoke. We not only don't get it, but we leave the theater wondering why the hell Snoke was even in this triology. He's worthless and we were promised worth. We don't even really get Maz Kanata or an answer to how she got Luke's light saber.
If you love Star Wars you will leave liking this movie. But you'll also leave aggravated that so much of what The Force Awakens built up, Rian Johnson tossed aside. Whereas the original Star Wars was built on the myths and religions of this world synthesized into something more, this Star Wars is built only on the myths of Star Wars and is willing to abandon things it shouldn't.
Because this is the second movie in a third trilogy, you'll get a lot of unoriginal echos to The Empire Strikes Back. You'll get no death star, but giant star destroyers. You'll get a nearly abandoned planet with rebels in trenches with blasters mounting an escape as Snow Walkers come down on them. You'll get the Millennium Falcon running trenches. You'll even get a Jedi training sequence in a cave. You'll get all the superficial notes and none of the deep notes. You'll also get the return of a very old friend.
The Last Jedi is a good Star Wars movie. I enjoyed it. I hope you will too. But I did leave frustrated that Rian Johnson got all the right ingredients to make his Empire Strikes Back, but he didn't blend them to get the right memory and sense of Empire. It's like he thought the prequel was as good as the original and so drew from both.
Now, to the basics -- yes you can take your kids to see it. There are a few violent scenes, but they are handled well. I struggle to see why this was rated PG-13 instead of PG. There are enough light moments and humor to keep kids from being overwhelmed.