I was never properly indoctrinated into ‘Kiddie Culture.” Librarians tried to force me into the kiddie corner where all the crappy books were forced on me, but I resisted and escaped into the proper literature section where I snuck out books that told real stories about real people. I just couldn’t stand reading that kiddie crap. And the movies were even worse. How could anybody sit still for stuff like Pollyanna, 101 Dalmatians, Babes in Toyland, or Toby Tyler when they could be watching The Apartment, Butterfield 8, Judgement at Nuremberg, or Splendor in the Grass? When I was eight years old, I was reading “War and Peace.” No way was I going to put that book aside just to read “Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine.”
I was not unaware of the kiddie movies. In fact, I did see most of them on account of my mom asking if I would mind taking my little sisters to see them. But I would never have gone to see Mary Poppins on my own. Not when Of Human Bondage was playing right across the street. Once my sisters were old enough to see some decent movies, I stopped going to the kiddie shows altogether, so I’m totally ignorant of what the under-12 set was being forced to watch from the late 60’s up until the turn of the century, when I got hooked on Miyazaki’s cartoons. Then I started reviewing movies for the Seattle PI, one of the city’s two daily newspapers, and was forced to see everything. So I am familiar with the recent trends and developments in kiddie fare.
I haven’t read any kiddie stories, though. If I had, I might be able to recount something of what occurred in the “Harry Potter” series. I saw all the movies, but they went right through me. Can’t remember even one scene. That’s a big problem with me. If something doesn’t connect, my brain just shuts down. So although I’ve seen all these Toy Stories and Wally the Robot parables, I couldn’t begin to say anything worthwhile about them. One thing I have noticed about kids today, though. They identify more closely with cartoon people than flesh and blood people. Kids don’t connect with stories about real people. They live in a cartoon world and project themselves into the cartoon characters.
Which might account for a movie like “Inside Out,” in which a person detaches herself from and takes control of her emotions by turning them into cartoon characters. Although this movie is designed for children, it comes from the sick soul of a suicidal depressive. Memories are turned into colored balls that can be lost and/or destroyed, so the gist of the story is that we need to protect those balls. The script may well have been distilled from twenty years on the analyst’s couch. Why would kids want to watch something like this? What are they getting out of it? I really don’t know.
As for “Fantastic Four,” all the adults who never grew up are bad mouthing it. I’ve read a few Fantastic Four comics, but never carried them into my adult life, so I don’t have that razor-sharp critical sense that determines whether a comic book movie is a masterpiece or a blasphemy. The best I can say about the movie is that I didn’t fall asleep during it, and have a clear recollection of the characters and story. I didn’t think it was all that bad, but then again, as I have said before, I am not qualified to sit in judgement on such things. Perhaps some of its detractors found the special effects unbelievable. I wonder what the special effects department would have to do to make them believe a man could stretch his arms and legs several yards or that a man was on fire without getting burned.
Finally, with the live action “Pixels,” I got quite a kick out of the aliens attacking Earth with her own video games, and being defeated by a trio of arcade geeks. The clueless politicians and the president whose best friend is a Gameboy maintenance man provided some amusing satire, and the romance between the lowly geek and the uppity snob was cute. The picture was reminiscent of “Mars Attacks,” but on a much slighter scale, and the battles between the gamers and the aliens were unimaginative and overlong. I have no idea if the movie is doing well or poorly, who if anybody likes it, and what the complaints against it from adult critics might be. It seemed pretty decent to me, a little better than The Fantastic Four, with more appeal to a youngster’s imagination than the knife-to-the-throat hope and optimism of the pitiful “Inside Out.”
But where are the movies that work on both adult and juvenile levels? Movies like “The Innocents,” “The Railway Children,” “The Chalk Garden,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Thunder Bay,” “Whistle Down the Wind,” “The Miracle Worker,” “The Little Fugitive,” “The Red Balloon,” “The Adventures of Milo and Otis,” “Flowers in the Attic,” and “Swiss Family Robinson?” Do they make movies for flesh-and-blood children any more, or are all of our children lost forever in Toon Town?