Friday, 27 May 2011

Encore’s Birthday Marathon: Day 10

I covered The Wizard of Oz on the very first day of this marathon (I’m now half through) and the always dedicated Brandon of Movie Mania made mention of a film I used to love back when I was a child – Matilda. Truly, the movie’s a bit ridiculous if you think too strongly about it, like most childhood fare is, but it stars the generally delightful Mara Wilson (aka known as the ghost of Natalie Wood in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street). In case you’re one of the few who’s never heard of Matilda it’s about a young girl who has the ability to perform telekinesis which leads her to an ultimate standoff with her school principal – Mrs. Trunchbull (played by Pam Ferris), who seems to be the mettle that people like Sue Sylvester were based on.
 I would still watch Matilda today, and though I wouldn’t be entranced with the machinations I would be, to be degree, charmed by its general lilt (Danny DeVito as a ham has a certain irresistibility to it) and I have to wonder why modern day concepts of the prodigious child battling humans don’t hold up as well. I’ve become a de facto connoisseur of children’s cinema because my nephew insists on me watching them with him. Now, as I’ve confessed, Matilda is certainly no slam-dunk in the execution department. The entire film is made up of a wide foray of stereotypes, and Rhea Pearlman’s outlandish mother is the closest thing we get to true emoting. But, I can watch it and grasp some semblance of sincerity which is so sorely lacking in something like Spy Kids (pick a number) or The Last Mimsy.
Incidentally, The Last Mimsy takes me back to one of the greatest childhood films in memory – Jumanji. It’s consistently entertaining, and is excellently put together. Maybe, and this is just a maybe, it’s not an indomitable giant of cinema but I don’t think I’m overreaching when I say that they don’t make them like this anymore. It’s why I don’t really get the concept of “children’s” cinema anymore. True, Pixar – for the most part – and other animated flicks like Corpse Bride, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline and a few others offer legitimate children’s entertainment that’s both devoid of tricks which reveal shameless evidence of pandering and with enough logic to be just as fresh and innovative for an adult audience, but – and maybe I’m underestimating the situation now – it’s at a deficit. That seems ironic. They’re making much more films now than when I was child, you’d think the quality would increase exponentially too.
It’s not that the situation has reached a place where I’ve got nothing to watch with my nephew. If hard-pressed, I have no problem with making him watch the slew of greatness from the nineties. I just wish that more modern films could pull off that childhood exuberance with a simultaneous blend of logic and earnestness. In retrospect, Matilda was probably the wrong film to open this conversation with...
What do you think of the state of children’s cinema?


Robert said...

Such a great post. Matilda was one of my favorite movies as a child and though, as you said, there are occasional gems, they really don't make them like they used to!

Fitz said...

Matilda is still something I watch when I wander through the television landscape.

Makes you wish there were more films like it.

Ryan T. said...

There was an article I read recently that posited the death of kid's movies due to the introduction of the PG-13 rating. I could be remembering wrong, but their theory was that movies geared for the young population either were ramped up with violence/sex/whatever to capture those lucrative (late) teen dollars or babied down to capture small children and their parents leaving a swath of the audience in between that had no real movies

It's interesting to note that the two films you mentioned, Matilda and Jumanji, were both rated PG. Who knows how each movie would've changed nowadays to capture a bigger audience.

I'm looking forward to Super 8 since, from the trailers at least, it reminds me children movies way back when. I could be wrong though and it doesn't have an MPAA rating yet, but yeah.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

fitz, robert so true.

ryan that's an interesting supposition, and it does make you think of the films from the nineties which seemed to sit between absolute childhood pandering and teenage gore. we'll see what super 8 bring, i guess (this is the first time i've heard anyone mention it, actually).