Seven Quick Takes:
“Pearls Before Swine” Edition
In choosing movies, my kids have more or less beaten me down. Of course I don’t let them watch just anything they want, because, obviously, some things are harmful or inappropriate in themselves; and some things are just so dang stupid, they do damage to immature aesthetic organs.
On the other hand, it’s so unpleasant to spend an evening shushing and chastising sulky kids while they ruin a perfectly good movie. And all they remember about the movie is that you yelled at them all the way through it.
So we more or less compromise, and let them watch a small amount of really worthless stuff (Scooby Doo); a lot of accessible stuff that has some merit, even if it’s only the merit of well-crafted entertainment (Daffy Duck); and then some Good Movies They Ought To See (High Noon), whether they want to or not.
The following list is a subcategory of accessible-with-merit: things they ought to easily enjoy, but don’t, just to drive me crazy. For these movies, I wait until the kids are really desperate for entertainment, and then gradually wear them down until they accidentally start enjoying themselves.
The Thief of Bagdad (1940) (available to watch instantly on Netflix)
Is this actually even a good movie? I sure loved it as a kid. It’s a Sinbad-ish story about a (remarkably white-bread) beggar/king Prince Ahmad who goes adventuring with his little brown buddy Abu, and wins the princess with the help of a gigantic and greasy genie with Brooklyn accent.
I sometimes think that the more clumsily-executed special effects of this era (together with the garishly brilliant color scheme) portray magic better than slick and perfect CGI. The roughness makes it all the more startling and otherwordly, which is how it ought to be.
Why the kids didn’t like it: It’s dated and goofy. I think there are songs, too, which is intolerable to sophisticates like themselves.
The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1986) (often on sale for $5-7 at Walmart and Target)
A completely charming live action dog and cat buddy story set in the lovely Japanese countryside. Dudley Moore narrates and does the dialogue, perfectly giving voice to the natural gestures and expressions of the animals. He’s clearly ad libbing in places, and some of it is just comic genius. I thought the turtle part was especially funny (for my TMC classmates: the turtle always made me think of Mr. Shea), and I really like the fox:
Why the kids didn’t like it: I really don’t know. They do show a dog giving birth in more detail than I would like. It’s not a typical computer-manipulated, squeaky-voiced animal picture, which takes some getting used to. Also, it opens with an irritating folksy kid song “We’re gonna take a walk outside today,” which really gives the wrong impression about what kind of movie it is.
The only movie version of this story you will ever need. Most convincing (and entertaining) conversion story you will ever see. So many elements of this movie are unforgettable: the pagan grandeur of Christmas Present, the terror of Scrooge alone in his cold house, hearing the dragging chains coming closer and closer; the the brilliance and sincerity of Alastair Sim’s timing and facial contortions. A nearly perfect movie.
Why the kids didn’t like it: It’s black and white. Some of it is pretty hokey, and the emotionalism (Scrooge’s sister’s deathbed; the miniature lost souls in agony waving their arms around) made them uncomfortable.
A modern (50′s) retelling of Romeo and Juliet with unforgettable music by Leonard Bernstein.
Haven’t actually made them watch this one yet (it’s not so much the sexiness as the sad ending that’s made me hold off. I’ve been really chicken about exposing them to sad endings)–but I’m pretty sure they’ll hate it when I decide they’re old enough. The baby, however, loved it: lots of jumping and dancing, loud drums and swirling skirts. Boy, the music is so great.
Why the kids won’t like it: the dated scenario and slang, the gang members doing menacing jetés and arabesques, and some of the plot points (the wedding scene comes to mind) are important but subtle.
How did they pull it off? It’s a story about a small tribe of simple and noble Bushmen being threatened by the violence and consumerism of the western world. But it doesn’t preach. It doesn’t even teach. It’s more of a funny, moving, and unusual fairy tale with a happy ending, which creates strong affection for several of the characters (and not just the Bushmen). I remember the sweetness, but was surprised at how much slapstick is in this movie, too.
Why the kids didn’t like it: Because they’re bad, bad kids.
The Iron Giant (1999) (available to watch instantly on Netflix)
A little boy discovers a giant robot, who has to develop a conscience and save the world.
Why the kids didn’t like it: I suspect it’s because they were made nervous by elements which they thought I wouldn’t approve of: the main character is really bratty, occasionally uses bad language, and there’s an irritating anti-establishment vibe. But I think the good of this movie outweighs these slightly distasteful aspects, and one scene (when the Iron Giant murmurs “Superman . . . “) makes me (and–shh!–my husband, too) leave the room when I know it’s coming, because it makes me cry.
Whoa, that’s only six! Oh well. I also forgot to list which scenes might not be good for kids. Sorry! Going to bed now.
Don’t forget to check out Jen (and excuse her dust. I love that phrase!) at Conversion Diary, where she is hosting the weekly 7 Quick Takes linkaround.