Saturday, 19 May 2012

“Children? They're all mistakes! Filthy, nasty things. Glad I never was one.”

Another random list coming your way. I’ve said before, and I’m sure I’m not alone, that cinematic children tend to exasperate me because they’re either too annoyingly precocious for me to appreciate them or to cloyingly adorable for me to consider them as real people. Sometimes it works. In fact, most of my childhood as a nineties child revolved around precocious preteens who managed to work both as leads of their films, as believable foils to the adults in their lives and generally good surrogates for their youthful – intended – audience. 

Matilda Wormwood (of Matilda)
 Mara Wilson’s specific brand of precociousness was on full display in the nineties, and this is the peak of her work. The film works most effectively because of the winsome sagacity Wilson manages to telegraph with her performance. Sometimes it is unnecessarily patronising, but that’s the point of the film of course. Matilda is better than you, deal with it. (No matter what Mrs. Trunchbull thinks, the title quote coming from her lips.)

James Henry Trotter (of James and the Giant Peach)
  It’s a shame Paul Terry didn’t pursue acting, I’d have loved to see what sort of an actor he became as an adult. Of the five films here, this one is my favourite and I’m the slightest bit wary of include James because two third of the film is animated. Still, James is a beacon for beleaguered children everywhere – he manages to outwit his dastardly aunts and makes the way across the country in a peach, of all things. What’s not to love?

Harriet M. Welsch (of Harriet the Spy)

Not necessarily the most complex, Harriet certainly is one of the most realistically abrasive of childhood “heroes”. I tend to think, though, that most artistically inclined persons could relate with Harriet’s inclination to keep a notebook of all her “observations”. And, it being a children’s movie and all one does feel the slightest bit that she gets neutered by having to censor her thoughts. But, I’m being a bit unfair, Harriet succeeds.

Kevin McCallister (of Home Alone)
 Just like with Wilson, the 90s were a decade of straight-up Macaulay Culkin. I think, maybe, his performance in the film below might be better but when it comes to nailing the anti-adult child Kevin McCalliste is peerless. Precociousness in children wasn’t quite the same after Home Alone.

Vada Sultenfuss (of My Girl)
 How many films targeted at children are quite like My Girl? Few come to mind immediately which manages to capture the hope, happiness and melancholy that comes with adolescence and My Girl is so much more effective because of the precise detail paid to the characters. Vada Sultenfuss, I’d imagine, would grow up to be something of a cross between Leslie Knope and Liz Lemon – and that’s an excellent thing, I think.
        
Whether or not you’re actually a nineties’ child, which nineties cinematic children do you recall fondly?

2 comments:

Runs Like A Gay said...

Does the deeply irritating, hopelessly enthusiastic Tim Murphy in Jurassic Park count?

Although I'm probably too old to really have a say, having started secondary school in 89.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

ben old man! and, allow me to embarrass myself significantly by admitting that jurassic park is one of the last important 90s films i've not seen. i'd promised jose i'd watch it last year, but "forgot". i hope he doesn't read this. i will before the year is out, i promise.