Over the last week, I somehow watched an uncharacteristic number of children’s movies. And that was without the influence of any children. After viewing all of them though, it had me thinking about how different it is to watch children’s movies as an adult. Sometimes the jokes aren’t as funny or they seem too immature or crass. Or the situation seems too out of the realm of even my suspension of disbelief. So I wanted to take a look at the films I watched and figure out what worked and what didn’t for me as an adult watching a kid’s film.
This Pixar sequel managed to be a box office hit another week in a row, but I can’t say that many people doubted it. I was both excited and skeptical of this movie. Excited because it’s the world of Finding Nemo! Skeptical because I’m so tired of sequels! Overall, as a mid-twenties millennial there’s no shame felt in going to see a Pixar movie. My generation grew up on these films so it’s almost kind of expected for us to hold them in a special place in our hearts and go to see them in theaters. I felt like Finding Dory had a bit of a rough start in establishing itself as a new story within an already explored world. I felt like some of the same jokes, themes, settings were rehashed in the first act, and though I felt nostalgia, I didn’t feel the emotional connection I usually have with Disney/Pixar movies. But once Dory sets off into an unknown world I felt the spark come back and GOSH! Did the end of the second act get me!
Overall, it was what I expected. It made me cry. It made me laugh. I felt immersed in a wonderful Pixar world. You can enjoy it as a kid. You can enjoy it as an adult. But it does make we wonder if it would be as enjoyable for adults without the power of Pixar or a franchise behind it.
Of the three films I saw this week, The BFG was the one I was most excited for. Steven Spielberg! Roald Dahl! Motion capture giants! Magical magic things! I saw a “Behind-the-scenes” trailer for it while in the theater for Finding Dory which only increased my enthusiasm. And when my boyfriend brought it up about seeing it, I thought, “This must be good! We’re in agreement!” (We’re not always in agreement about what movies to see in theaters and what to wait to Redbox or Netflix). But honestly, I was thoroughly disappointed.
It’s not that it’s a bad movie. It’s certainly an entertaining story, and it’s cinematically beautiful. But several things really felt flat for me. First, I’ll say that I think this story might have been best told in full animation, for example stop motion like other Roald Dahl stories (e.g. James and the Giant Peach). Something about the absurdism that the story asks you to believe doesn’t fit with live action even if the giants are beautifully crafted through motion capture. I kept thinking that it reminded me of The Boxtrolls which has a crazy story but still remains one of my favorite films because the story seems to fit within the slightly grotesque animated world. This might be a good example of how the technology may be available now, but sometimes traditional techniques fit certain stories better stylistically.
Second, I couldn’t handle all the “lingo.” The BFG has a very particular way of speaking, and it honestly requires translating. After about a third of the movie, I really wanted subtitles so that I could at least see what word sandwiches he was making and maybe that way I could more quickly understand what was going on. Mostly, I just felt like I was missing important pieces of the story because it was taking time for me to mentally translate half the dialogue.
Overall, it was sweet, and I could see the appeal to kids with the Queen of England whizzpopping! But it didn’t really have the humor or emotional connection that I look for in a movie. There were times where I felt like I should have cried because it was supposed to be a moving scene, but I was not moved. And I was disappointed in myself for that. Like I had grown up too much to enjoy it. That’s definitely not the feeling you want an audience member to leave your film having.
The Good Dinosaur
And finally, The Good Dinosaur! This film stands in a really interesting contrast for me against The BFG. I got it through Netflix’s DVD service, and I casually mentioned to my boyfriend on Sunday afternoon if he’d be interested in watching it. It was cool and rainy outside so we were ready for a low stakes movie and a nap, so he agreed. I knew The Good Dinosaur didn’t do as well in theaters as Disney/Pixar would have hoped. I personally didn’t go see it when I see pretty much every Pixar movie in theaters because it felt like a weird premise and I was disappointed in how cartoonish the dinosaurs looked. The first act definitely confirmed my suspicions about a weird premise (Farming dinosaurs? What is this madness?), but then Pixar pulled a Pixar and had my boyfriend and I both crying.
Honestly, it is kind of a weird movie. But as it was nearing the end, I realized that I was enjoying it much more than I had the BFG. It had weird humor (e.g. like eating fermented peaches and getting high as a kite and having a freaky scene that looked like something out of Adventure Time). It had a really out there premise (e.g. Dinosaurs farming and T-rex’s cattle herding and humans having very dog-like personalities). But overall, it all fit. As weird and crazy and out there as it was, I never felt like I was having to struggle to believe in what was happening. It all felt naturally a part of the story, and I felt like I was just along for the ride.
So what do you think? What’s your favorite kid’s movie? Have you ever struggled with feeling like you’re “too old” for a movie? Or you just didn’t get the humor?