Trying something a little different this month at Make the Case, with the column dropping from 5 movies to 7. We’ll see how it goes. We can just go back and forth between different numbers that are fine with me. Who can say. The world is madness.
Are today’s kids, or young people as I think they are still called by someone, somewhere, getting this good and weird stuff in their diet? It probably doesn’t matter, but there seems to have been a time when people were making and releasing movies ostensibly for kids with elements that would seem largely alien to most movies supposedly marketed to the under 15s. . themes, or just the eclectic shared vision of everyone involved not being as scrutinized by studios as these kinds of movies are today.
It just doesn’t seem like a lot of kids movies are all about a whole family anymore. They also don’t want to do anything with depth not just in themes, but in how those themes are approached and explored visually. I’m not mad about it, but part of my own nostalgia sometimes comes down to seeing what kinds of movies are being marketed for kids in the present.
That’s pretty much what I’m talking about this month, my own nostalgia. So, while I’m looking for a cloud to scream on, here are my 7 favorite kids’ movies that struck me as weird when I first saw them, and continue to do so in the present.
Will “weird” also inherently mean “good” for this edition of Make the Case?
Probably not. We’ll deal with that as we go, keeping in mind that I only have my own specific definition of weird to go on.
7. Spy Kids (2001)
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Spy Kids could be the most accessible and commercially successful movie we cover. It’s also every bit as weird and chaotic as Robert Rodriguez’s best films.
It’s a fun premise for an action movie, with two kids (Daryl Sabara and Alexa PenaVega) becoming super spies in order to save their parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) from the forces of evil. It might have been just tasteless, enjoyable entertainment, but to even assume that in 2001 would have been disrespectful to Rodriquez and the people he surrounded himself with. Spy Kids isn’t the deepest film, but it has far too much love, charm, and heartfelt energy to be considered empty.
It’s the fact that it’s even a children’s movie that may baffle you, if you happen to watch it years after it was a part of your childhood. Also make time for Spy Kids 2, which features a scene in which Steve Buscemi comments on the nature of God. It’s been quoted and memorized to death, but truth be told, that’s not even the weirdest thing that happens in this outstanding series. Hell, look at the whole franchise.
6. Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
Director: george miller
I rewatched Babe: Pig in the City with my wife Cara, who hadn’t seen that movie since she was maybe 8 or 9 years old. The movie took her by surprise because it was so dark and surprisingly weird that she almost asked me to turn it off. This puts Pig in the City in the same category, at least as far as it is concerned, with the Suspiria remake.
Babe: Pig in the City was an inevitable sequel after the first 1995 film fetched an absolutely A staggering $250 million. If you weren’t around in the mid-90s, I don’t think I can accurately explain to you how much people loved this pig and his dream of being a sheepdog. It’s a unique children’s film that also found a very receptive adult audience.
The following it went well, but not nearly so well with critics or audiences. Perhaps because it’s one of the most messy and unpredictable mainstream movies of the 90s. The movie’s title town alone is scarier than many horror movies from the same decade.
5. Return to Oz (1985)
Director: Walter Murch
Keep in mind that we are not ranking anything here. However, if we were, Return to Oz might just be the one to top them all. At least for me, because the movie has been a favorite for the last 30 years of my life, but Return to Oz has stuck. intensely, extremely dark and even sinister for many audiences.
This kind of away to The Wizard of Oz places Dorothy (a standout performance by a young Fairuza Balk) on a decidedly darker Yellow Brick Road. The film begins in a place far closer to the mind of L. Frank Baum than the iconic 1939 MGM film, and it only gets crazier from there.
Return to Oz struck a strange chord with audiences in 1985. Adults weren’t quite sure what to make of it, but kids reacted to it. How can I know? Because it’s one of those movies that seemingly every old millennial (Christ kill me) has seen, remembers, and loves. There’s a mixture waiting at the end of every time you say “They don’t make them like that anymore,” but that still applies to this movie. For better or for worse, they really don’t.
4. The Witches (1990)
Director: Nicolas Roeg
The witches certainly seemed like a stressful time for at least some of those involved.
It would be the last film that Jim Henson personally oversaw (his shop’s creature effects lending lasting vitality and personality to this surreal children’s film) before his death in 1990. It was also not well received by author Roald Dahl, who found the film to be a miserable adaptation of his novel (he particularly hated the film’s decision to opt for a happy ending). Does all of this really matter? Not particularly, unless it’s extremely important to you that the author likes the film based on his work.
But it’s still interesting notes for one of the weirdest mainstream children’s films released in the 90s. child from the surface of the earth. Even if The Witches didn’t have her sublime villain performance, there would still be a story and an execution of that story that assumes kids can handle a slightly cartoonish live-action nightmare.
3. The Black Crystal (1982)
Director: Jim Henson
I keep muttering things like “Netflix can fuck my ass,” when shows like The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and Santa Clarita Diet get canceled early. Still, I’m left with at least one of the best examples of a childhood favorite reimagined in a way that didn’t feel trapped in nostalgia, as Jim Henson’s original The Dark Crystal didn’t. was never going to be something anyone could recreate beat-for-beat in the first place. Do something exciting and different that also feels like a natural extension of the source material, or don’t waste my time.
All of this is worth mentioning because The Dark Crystal is still one of the most unique and daring attempts to challenge an audience, especially children, with not only a distinctive narrative, but a distinct way of telling it. narrative. The Dark Crystal apparently finds a thousand ways to be weird and even a little scary in its premise of heroes and villains in a deeply original fantasy setting.
Perhaps especially in the creature designs that Henson and his studio came up with. They remain an incredible testament to the human imagination and go a long way toward understanding why nothing in the world is like The Dark Crystal.
2. Coraline (2009)
Director: Henry Selick
Henry Selick is a director curiously underestimated by many. The man behind The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach is rarely mentioned in conversations about great directors, especially in animation. Still, his work seems deeply rooted in the idea that you can give kids movies so complete and ready to be offbeat that adults will likely find themselves drawn in too.
Once upon a time, family movies had a semblance of confidence in what they thought an audience could handle. Based on a book by Neil Gaiman, Coraline is perhaps his most complex and challenging work to date. A fairly simple story of a young girl who finds a gateway to an alternate world, eerily similar (emphasis on “strange”) to her own.
Coraline is a childhood story about appreciating what you have in your own life, especially your own problematic but well-meaning family, but Coraline nevertheless takes you to some pretty terrifying places over the course of expressing her point. of sight. For the animation style and character design alone, you won’t forget Coraline if you plan to see her for the first time in the near future.
1. The Peanut Butter Solution (1985)
Director: Michael Rubbo
Even the basic premise of The Peanut Butter Solution doesn’t seem quite right when you read it over. A child (Matthew Mackay) deals with ghosts, hair loss, the unstoppable regrowth of said hair, a crazy French art teacher, and a degree of compensatory anxiety due to his mother being out of town for a while. The Peanut Butter Solution can sometimes feel less like a movie and more like a collection of ideas that happen chronologically by sheer magical coincidence.
Calling The Peanut Butter Solution a good movie isn’t quite right. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s going to be too crazy for some. Its unfathomable creative choices in the script and the performances of its cast are more than enough to keep you entertained, but it takes a particular mindset to find it all admirable.
To be clear, I do. Even a chaotic misfit like The Peanut Butter Solution is ultimately better off doing the same. Nostalgia can be dangerous and pitiful, but it’s hard to watch something like this and not think about how genial sweetness many family movies are coming out at this point.
READ NEXT: Make the case: Ranking the Muppets movies from worst to best
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made while visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and more.