Going to the movies was a huge event as a kid. It was a strange, wonderful world full of teeth-rotting candy and larger-than-life adventure. We saw our wildest dreams projected on the silver screen. Now that we’re older, we still love the movies, but we don’t have that power to overlook poor plotting or crappy characters. At some point, we traded childhood wonder for adult sensibilities, and now the modern-day ‘kids’ movie’ is unbearable. So instead of quoting lines from our childhood cinematic loves, the Filmcritic.com staff reminisced about movies we never saw as kids, but really wish we had.
Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999)
I’m fully capable of enjoying Phantom Menace as a 20-something, despite its flaws (or because of my own). But the prequel trilogy’s popularity with a younger crowd is a testament to Lucas’s ability to conjure childlike wonder in, you know, actual children. Like it or not, they’re the same feelings the original films awaken in so many adult sci-fi fans. With its goodhearted, gee-whiz mini-Anakin, creature-filled podracing, and jabbering robots, Phantom Menace is a 10-year-old’s dream movie. As much as I enjoy the film, I envy the actual ten-year-olds whose goofy, vivid dreams came true when they saw it.
That Gizmo is so cute! That music is so catchy! And boy, when those gremlins touch water — LOOK OUT! Joe Dante’s Gremlins is a veritable cornucopia of childhood delights — it’s goofy, it’s simple, it makes no sense whatsoever, and it is absolutely gross in its totally dated splatter effects. Trying to watch it for more than 10 consecutive minutes as an adult is a monumental task, but as a kid, it’s like a wacky, disgusting Wizard of Oz.
Donnie Darko (2001)
What kid didn’t feel like Donnie Darko when he was young? Frustrated, misunderstood and probably stuck in a time warp. Now, imagine the possibilities of working out the logic of wormholes and parallel universes that could have occupied the quiet hours between youthful Ultima sessions. But when I think about this movie as a grownup, all I can see is that damn guy in the creepy bunny suit.
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
It’s unavoidable — at some point during nostalgia throwdowns in college dorms across the country, someone is going to turn on the NeverEnding Story theme song. While this prompts most to sing every word (which they likely secretly learned as adults), it sounds to me like a Reading Rainbow theme song rip-off. The movie is classic kids’ entertainment — crazy adventures, an Empress in an Ivory Tower, and talking beasts with unpronounceable names. But to an adult, it’s a 100-minute acid trip where a boy rides around on a flying dog to trick kids into reading books. But you don’t have to take my word for it.
In movies, the equivalent of marshmallow Peeps candy is Doogal. It was a delectable cinematic holiday treat for my three-year-old, but I just wanted to explode it in a microwave. My son ignored the empty plot holes, shrugged off the bland voice acting, and was unable to pick up on the horrible pop culture references. His face showed visible signs of concern when the characters were tossed into one ridiculous predicament after another and he let out a sigh of relief when they escaped. Doogal might be toxic for an adult, but it’s is the greatest movie ever made if you’re three. (At least until you turn six because, while my son still like Peeps, he tells me that Doogal is garbage.)
Surf Ninjas (1993)
If only I had seen this through those metaphorical ‘eyes of a child’ when I took my seven-year-old son to see this kiddie ninja frolic so many years ago, I wouldn’t have felt I’d been damned to hell. In case you’re unfamiliar, the film stars Ernie Reyes Jr. as a dumbass California surfing dude who suddenly finds himself attacked by deadly ninjas because he is actually the prince of the island kingdom of Patu San, and the reigning dictator Colonel Chi (Leslie Nielsen, in an incredibly ridiculous costume) wants him (and his brother) eliminated. All the jokes fall flat and stupidity reigns supreme, but there is still that big ‘Barbara Ann’ production number that makes it all worthwhile. That and the man-to-wave friction reducing vehicles.
I Love You, Man (2009)
If I were a 12-year-old, I would have thought having a sex-crazed, loose cannon friend would be the best thing ever — you jam to Rush! You eat amazing fish tacos! You call each other cool nicknames! Twenty years later, I know the truth: The more free-wheeling a friend is, the less reliable he is, and you can’t force camaraderie, regardless of how creatively you use the word ‘bro.’ And by the way, Rush blows. Hard. [Pete has been sacked for that last comment. -Ed.]
The Goonies (1985)
To me, ‘Hey you guys’ is just getting someone’s attention, a Baby Ruth is a delicious candy bar that can be mistaken for a ‘doodie’ in the pool, and Jonathan Ke Quan is forever known as Short Round (not Data). Though corny and convoluted today, Goonies‘ story of a misfit group of friends on an adventure to find pirate treasure in the hopes of saving their soon-to-be foreclosed-upon homes captured the hearts of ’80s kids. Unfortunately for me, the only nostalgia Goonies holds is the boredom and frustration from the Nintendo video game Goonies II.
The Incredibles (2004)
Ah, to look back… The skill behind this animated feature and the brilliant craftsmanship of its creator Brad Bird would have flown past my pre-teen scope of appreciation, but the awesomeness of the heroes and villains would’ve grabbed me down to my argyle socks. I surely would have reveled in the Incredibles’ special powers, with a special shout of glee for my young contemporary — little Dashiell ‘Dash’ Parr (voiced by Spencer Fox) — whose rocket speed gave the bad guys a frantic run for their money. And I would have been really pissed with wifey Helen, aka Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), for forcing hubby Bob, aka Mr. Incredible, to trade foiling plots of world destruction for a 9-to-5 and domestic ‘bliss.’ Women!
If I had seen this high school romp at age 12, it would’ve been my cinematic reason for existence. Greg Mottola’s not-quite-coming-of-age comedy would have easily filled the slot in my mind currently occupied by Caddyshack and Animal House, and for the same reasons: raunchy language my parents would never laugh at; consistently bad behavior; immature and impure thoughts; and, of course, girls. This should be required viewing for
kids entering teenhood. I’m kidding. Not really.