We can all agree it’s okay not to be a mature adult. There are enough of them around making the world function for the rest of us to act, dress, and behave like immature childlike empresses/emperors. Part of this is enjoying movies for children despite the fact that I should no longer relate to their themes. But I think every adult is just a child in a grown-up suit faking it all anyway, so we can still relate to the conundrums of childhood and learn lessons from those younger than ourselves.
Here are some of my favorite films made for children that I can still enjoy as a so-called adult. I’m pretty sure critics agree most of these movies are terrible, but I think we can all agree most of those critics are terrible and have killed their inner-child through years of negativity and neglect. I genuinely still enjoy these movies on a cinematic storytelling level and not just on the nostalgia level of insisting on clinging to terrible things and pretending they’re great. Enjoy.
Matilda, for those of you unfortunate enough not to have seen it, is a story of a girl whose family is a bunch of awful, television-loving jerks who don’t appreciate Matilda’s specialness. Matilda is a supersmart genius who reads a ton of books and develops the power of telekinesis to deal with her anger at being unappreciated. Along the way she meets a great teacher, a turd principal and cheers on an obese child so that he can finish eating an enormous chocolate cake. The film is funny and scary and whimsical.
The entire cast does an amazing job and it’s only mildly confusing as to why Danny Devito directs the movie, plays a character and narrates the story as an entirely different omniscient essence. Why not just hire another dude to narrate? Why you gotta do everything yourself, Danny? Huh? Everyone knows you’re tiny and talented already – no need to rub it in our faces. Anyway, everyone can relate to feeling unappreciated and the joy of finding people who value you. There’s also the satisfaction of seeing nasty nogoodniks get their comeuppance. I will and do watch this movie any time I can.
At the very least we can all relate to wanting to use our telekinesis to punish those who deserve it. At the very very least we all love Roald Dahl.
Hook is a wonderful retelling of the Peter Pan story. It’s told as though Peter grew up into a very hairy man, forgot who he was, and turned into a bad father who lets Captain Hook steal his kids; he then has to return to Neverland to save his kids from pirate Dustin Hoffman by remembering he’s Peter Pan while along the way learning to become a good dad.
Once again, a star-studded cast makes this movie the enchanting tale that it is. Hook is Steven Spielberg directing as his fantasy-adventure best. The film explores themes of neglect, parent/child relationships and imagining dinner food when you have nothing to eat. The imagined feast scene may be one of my top 25 movie scenes, in general. And also when that fat kid somehow forms himself into a ball and rolls down the plank, because that was just amazing.
This movie even gets super serious on us when Rufio dies. Yes, a beloved character dies. That’s heavy. That’s heavy, doc. Usually when unpleasant things happen in fun movies, I can’t watch that movie ever again. But the magic of Hook is that I can. Because it helped me become an immature adult.
3) Camp Nowhere
Ah, Camp Nowhere. A bunch of kids who have to go to camps they hate create fake camps and steal their parents’ money and pour it into creating the summer of their lives! Their molehill of a camp quickly turns into a mountain as other kids catch wind of their idea. And with Christopher Llyod as an ex-drama teacher/ringleader hilarity and chaos ensues!
Despite never being wild about summer camp itself, I’d say summer camp movie is one of my favorite genres of movie: Heavyweights, Wet Hot American Summer, The Babysitters Club, etc. Camp Nowhere is a particularly excellent film as it taught goody-two shoes me about general small-scale tomfoolery as well as large-scale fraud.
There’s also romance and adventure and kids from different cliques coming together for the greater good.
Elijah Wood stars in this delightful comedy about a boy with terrible parents who goes to court to find new parents. He has a couple months to find a new family or return to his old one. And somewhere along the way his parents go into comas and end up in a museum on display or something weird.
I much preferred Elijah in North to when he was in Forever Young, which scared the beans right out of me. I also much preferred Elijah that one time I saw him in a Whole Foods to when he was in Forever Young. Forever Young is just a scary film that should be in the horror section because I really didn’t like it. But North is great. I need not say how studded with stars the cast is when you’ve got Seinfeld’s George and Elaine playing North’s parents.
What makes me love North even more is how much Roger Ebert apparently hated it:
“I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.”
Well, Roger, you can hate me, too. Because I love North.
5) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
I’m pretty sure this is only posing as a kid’s movie, to be fair. There’s implied child murder, yelling at children, bedridden grandparents and a hallucination-inducing tunnel of terror. These are the building blocks of a horror film. But as a kid all I got from this film was that candy was great, Willy Wonka had the best job ever and ‘Cheer Up, Charlie’ was the worst song ever written that needed to be fast forwarded through upon every viewing of the movie.
I love the candy, the costumes, the Oompa Loompas, the singing, Grandpa Joe, the burping, the Wonkavator, the edible tea cup, and obviously, Gene Wilder. I love it all!
Even if Roald Dahl hated it.