Weep For The Children:
A Small Rant About The State Of Children's Films
Recently, I had the displeasure of watching what passes for children's films these days. And after finding myself surprisingly able to hold in the rage and blood vomit from the full frontal assault of endless one liners aimed at being the children related equivalent of an internet meme, followed by endless pointless visual and audio gags and pointlessly uptight people played for "comedy" in completely watered down and ignorant tasteless lazy attempts at film making, I found myself thinking about it, and thinking how the genre of children's films has gone from a genre of much beloved classics that span the gambit of most genres; action/adventure, sci fi, comedy, animation, drama, and to the extent of just scary enough to give alittle fright, but not nightmares, there is even some things that would be seen as horror, well to a child anyway.
I can remember my childhood watching such great films as The Goonies, Time Bandits, the Explorers, The Neverending Story, Watership Down, and many others that when held up to what is made today, there is almost no honest way to compare, you look at the films of generations past, and you can clearly see the difference, there was storytelling, there was actual acting, there was conflict where a villain, though comical, was clearly a villain not some random uptight adult figure who is uptight for no real reason other then they're an adult. And bullies are bullies who are more then just a simple vague idea of a bully thats been watered down as to not offend anyone. Think about it, can you honestly put any modern children's movie bad guy up against characters like The Nothing, or Jenner from The Secret Of NIMH or The Red Bull from The Last Unicorn, or hell even Judge Dredd from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Hell can you even pick out a clear definitive out and out bad guy in any modern kids movie? One thats a legitimate evil person and not some adult trying to force a group of children to follow the rules but only ends up the punchline of 90 minutes worth of fart jokes, followed by one or all of said children screaming whatever the line they want kids to remember from the film at the top of their vocal range? Yeah, if you're having trouble, don't worry, you aren't the only one. I've sat down for a good long while, looked through my DVDs, my VHS, downloaded stuff, and went through every single list I could find of children's movies, and I couldn't really find one that had a truly scary definitively bad guy in them, its sad really.
But I noticed something else when I was looking through my lists and timelines, I found when this change from classic beloved children's movies that didn't talk down to you or insult the viewers, changed over the predominate slop they have now, it was, surprisingly, the same year I credit for children's programing and well entertainment in general going down hill, 1990, the year Jim Henson died, and the year a movie aimed at children came out that some of you might have heard of, it goes by the name of "Home Alone". Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Home Alone, but it signaled a change in how movies aimed at children were made, much like how Toy Story changed the way CGI films were made, it proved that if you take a young child who seems likable and funny and has just enough acting skill to make it believable that they can pull off being on screen for most of the film, set said child with an unlimited access to just bout anything in the house he will ever need, with no parents to tell him no, regardless of the danger involved, and somehow allow him to outwit some apparently stupid adults who are underestimating said child, and have each scene be literally visual gag over visual gag, followed by pretty lame 2rd grade level jokes and mugging dumb faces at the camera. This formula seems to have been the entire point of that film, and 90% of the films aimed at children sense then, have followed the same path, the problem is, though it worked once, that doesn't mean it will work again, lightening rarely strikes twice, no matter how much Hollywood would like you to think otherwise.
Now this isn't saying that every children's movie before 1990 was a work of art, believe me, for every wonderful amazing film like The Dark Crystal there was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Turtles In Time, much like for every Harry Potter film there has been twice as many Land Before Time films, but you get the idea, I'm not really crapping on the last 20 or so years, I'm just pointing out there is a massive lack of quality that started to slide back then and has been continuity sliding down the water slide of fail faster and faster as each year goes, and its really alarming, not just to me as a writer, but as a movie lover as I am, its sad to see a genre that went from such giant and brilliant productions as Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory and The Phantom Tollbooth which where just so amazingly visual and well written, has fallen to such horrible and lazy films as Unaccompanied Minors and the completely lazily named and lazily written film Hotel For Dogs. I just wish the people who make this slop, and more so, the people who write it, would look at what they're doing, and realize they aren't doing anything but dumbing down the youth of the world with their lack of ability to tell a compelling story.
Now to some this whole thing might not seem like a big deal, but think about it, each generation of film makers are inspired by the movies they watch as children, and sense I'm pretty sure most parents won't let their kids watch movies by Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, James Whale, Jean-Luc Godard, Howard Hawks, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, just to name afew, or even the more recent brilliance of some of the more recent directors who have shown they are very good at what they do, I know it makes me sound old, but honestly, I weep for what the next generation of film makers, and the films they will make, when they have the crap thats out there now to inspire them.
And if the rest of you think about it, maybe you will too. Or maybe I need to put a dollar in the Douchebag Jar.