Children don’t always have the best taste in movies. I know this because I see what kids watch and they watch a lot of crap. I also know because I remember the movies I watched as a kid. There is some real garbage there. I don’t think it’s that kids are bad judges, but that the interests and needs of a child are quite different from an adult. Children are more open to the silly and the fanciful, which in a way is actually a great thing. It also means, though, that kids are more easily pandered to and thus entertained.
When I look back at the films I used to watch when I was six or seven or even ten years old, I look back fondly, even at the bad films. Some of those films I look at now and feel almost a sense of shame for having loved. Some of them bring no shame at all, and some of them I shamelessly love to this day. I’d like to share those films with you. Maybe if you’re my age you’ll have the same sense of nostalgia for them, or, if not, you’ll gain some insight into what being a young kid in the 90s was like from a cinematic perspective.
The truly defining films of my childhood were no doubt animated. The Walt Disney classics. Of course, I watched plenty of older Disney films like Snow White and Pinocchio. I had particular affection for One Hundred and One Dalmatians, which I sadly haven’t seen in several years. Being a child in the 90s, though, meant that THE Disney films were the Renaissance classics. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King. Those four films. I cannot begin to count the number of times I watched those films (as well as the direct-to-video Aladdin sequels), but I’m sure I could dig up the well-worn VHS tapes to give you an idea. What’s nice with those films is I can stand by them to this day as being wonderful. In fact, Beauty and the Beast is in my Top 20 of All Time!
Of course, when you’re a kid there are no half-measures. You love a film, you watch it over and over and over and over and over again. I’m sure if you’re a parent you just shuddered a little. Maybe the voice of Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater is haunting your dreams. I don’t deny it. I was the same way. Perhaps the film I watched more than any other, the film I loved the most, that I held the most dear, was Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Two dogs and a cat go on an amazing adventure to get back to their owners. It’s a movie I can still put on and find funny, and it makes me cry every damn time I watch it. It helps that two of the voices are Sally Field and Michael J. Fox.
My childhood also brought me to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and to my favourite film of all time, Back to the Future, but somehow those films always felt a little removed from me when I was a kid. No, the movies that really hooked me usually had child protagonists. Films like Hook and E.T. were in heavy rotation in the VCR, as were Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire and The Pagemaster. These are all films I can still call good, or at the very least still enjoy. Of course, then there are the more dubious films.
Have you ever seen Flubber? How about The Flinstones? Richie Rich? George of the Jungle? I used to watch those movies, too. I actually cringe when I think about it. Those movies are terrible. Abominations, really. But I watched them. Oh boy, did I ever watch those movies. I feel a deep sense of shame when I realize I’ve probably seen Flubber more times than Casablanca. It’s disgusting, really.
Finally, there’s the category of film that I miss most in some ways. They’re the kind of films that just aren’t made anymore. I’m talking about the kids-playing-sports genre. Not to be confused with animals-playing-sports, like Air Bud or MVP: Most Valuable Primate. I’m talking about The Mighty Ducks, The Big Green, Little Giants, The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield. I never even enjoyed playing sports, but I always loved watching these movies. What they always got right was the interaction between the kids. The crazy, goofy, wild silliness you get when you stick a bunch of young kids in a room together. I loved those films, and I still do.
In fact, I love all the films I mentioned. Even the bad ones. I mean, the bad ones are awful, but they mean something to me. They were there when I was growing up. I didn’t watch them because I had some intellectual interest in cinema. I watched them because I had fun with them, because they entertained me, and in some cases because they moved me. These were the movies I watched as a kid, and they’ll be with me forever.