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As much as a parent may love movies, a night out or their children, the bane of any mother or father’s day can be slugging their way to see Alvin and the Chipmunks VII: Theodore’s Revenge 3D. Thankfully, times seem to be changing and there are more and more films able to please adults and children in kind. Along with this trend however, comes instances where a “kidpic” will inadvertently cross the divide and become more enjoyable for an older, more mature audience. This could well be the case with Zack Snyder’s 3-D animated adventure Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, so we will explore kids movies that may actually be better for adults.
There is a delicate line between adult films kids will like and films made specifically for a younger demographic. Films such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, E.T., Big, Back to the Future and The Princess Bride remain favorites of parents to show their young ones -- nostalgia remains supreme. Yet these were not primarily designed for children. A family audience perhaps, but you would not come across ads for them on Nickelodeon. On the flip-side, many films do target that demographic and ultimately end up being wildly inappropriate, through either material that is too dark or overly profane potty humor. Films such as Bad News Bears (both the original and remake) seem primed for a young audience, but I for one would not want my kids seeing a drunk Billy Bob Thorton beating up a young kid.
Kids, ultimately, are easily amused, that’s why peek-a-boo doesn’t require acrobatics. The mark of a truly great kids feature is one that remains watchable and resonant as they grow older and relish the thought of revisiting their childhood memories. Animation serves as the benchmark for quality in this grey area of film genres as far back as the late thirties and early Disney all the way up to Pixar, Henry Selick’s twisted concoctions and the lovably droll characters from Aardman Animation. This pool of films at large is beloved by parents as much as their kids especially the more mature Pixar tales such as Ratatouille, WALL-E and The Incredibles.
The minds behind Pixar often offer more for the accompanying adults then they do for the younglings. Little Billy will love the colorful animation and goofy sidekick while mom and dad will laugh at the subtle in-jokes, innuendos and classic movie references. The Iron Giant is a fantastic example of a movie that doesn’t fall into the Disney crowd but is timeless and touching all the same. DreamWorks Animation has come a long way of late with trans-generational efforts such as Shrek, King Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon, but still lags behind in some cases with more low-brow films such as
Henry Selick remains a creator of the epitome of a non-kidpic kidpic. His three feature films The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Coraline I’m sure traumatized more than its share of little ones, but while parents held their trembling offspring comforted, I’m sure they marvelled at the stop-motion animation and dark creepy beauty of the films.
The most recent to fall within this realm of movies is certainly Bridge to Terabithia, a touchingly tragic fantasy/drama that was inexplicably marketed to young children on its playful mythical elements. I’m sure more than one kid left the theater traumatized, but viewed as a mature drama it was one of the best films of the year. Slightly more upbeat but carrying with it a similar tone is the best picture nominee Babe. Sure the singing mice are cute, but there are also story elements that include a pig snatched away from his mother, a butchered sheep, a decapitated goose and a overlying plot point that eventually little Babe would become a succulent dinner. The consensus among adults however is that Babe is utterly charming and it is not difficult to see why that consensus would come from someone of a more mature age rather than a kid.
Spawning a solid sequel before becoming just more child-centric drivel, Home Alone is a favorite among families. Adults will enjoy it for its harsh violence against the bumbling antagonistic thieves and well, kids will like it for the same reason I suppose. Home Alone follows a trend in these types of films in that the more inappropriate a kidpic becomes, the more someone older will find something to love, that is if they can get over the indignity caused by vague marketing and having taken their child to something inappropriate.
The Harry Potter film series lies on the very edge of what we could classify as children’s movies. They are clearly aimed at a more mature, young audience as by the mid teens, most have disowned all affiliation with the teen wizard and his friends for fear of peer-related criticism. In many cases, adults have actually read the book series and thoroughly enjoyed the fantasy tale. But you don’t need me to tell you how popular Harry Potter is, it is simply one of those demographic-bending cases where it is of no surprise why all the admiration exists.
The irony surrounding this genre is that unless we talking about a bona fide film buff, many adults would never seek out “kids” movies on their own time, so even when they find more to love then their young ones, they would never have seen it otherwise. So if there is a lesson to be learned here is that you should never nix an entire genre because with all the movies out there, a surprise is always waiting.