Edna Mode prefers “The Incredibles,” but thinks Mac’s kids flick list is “FAB-ulous!” (IMAGE: DISNEY/PIXAR)
If there’s one thing you learn when you become a parent it’s this: Hollywood must be making a diaper-load of money on kids’ movies, because they sure do make a lot of them.
Being the proud father of two kids in diapers — and occasionally feeling like I could use a pair myself — I, like many parents, have been forced to become a connoisseur of the kids’ flick. Eventually, evolving into a sort of Siskel and Ebert who traded in the popcorn and the sweater vest for a kid and a beer-stained hoodie.
Like the former “Thumbs Up” dynamic duo (may Gene R.I.P.), I also have criteria for judging. And here it is:
The movie has to be good enough that a kid will want to watch it roughly 337 times per week. It has to have a positive message. Death can’t be the most memorable part (i.e.: “Bambi,” “Up,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Everyone’s Hero” — oh, wait, that last one just made me want to kill myself).
It has to be funny, have great music and not cause parents to start drinking at 10 a.m., unless it’s a holiday or they’re pretending to be in another time zone. Therefore, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Kids’ Movies:
This movie has three things going for it. 1. Mike Myers. 2. It’s clever enough to entertain adults. 3. Kids like it (and their sequels) even if they don’t know why. The one downside, hearing Mike Myers turn his grumpy old man character from “So I Married an Axe Murderer” into a cartoon might cause some parents to flash back to their college days, get the munchies and start to giggle to themselves about heads the size of “Sputnik.”
Shrek: If I treat you so badly, then why did you come back, huh?
Donkey: Because that’s what friends do, they forgive each other!
9. The Little Mermaid
This movie, which arguably seems a little dated, really took kids’ movies to the next level with its massive marketing campaigns and astronomical movie-related toy sales. It’s still a well-done love story with a great soundtrack.
Sebastian: “Take it from me / Up on the shore they work all day / Out in the sun they slave away / While we devotin’ / Full time to floating / Under the sea!”
8. The Incredibles
This action-packed film is the kind of movie little boys — especially little boys trapped in 40 year-old bodies —want to see. It’s another simple, classic movie theme: super heroes battle bad guys, get their butts whipped for a while and then come back to save the day in the nick of time. Plus, it stars Holly Hunter as a big-bootied super mom. And most people, whether they’ll admit it to themselves or not, like Holly Hunter.
Mr. Incredible: “No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid.”
7. The Lion King
It’s a sweeping, larger than life movie that appeals to the kid in everyone. And while death does have a couple of big scenes in the movie, having lions die doesn’t seem as jarring.
Even kids know lions make their living eating other cute and cuddly creatures like gazelles, zebras and water buffalo. And the message …
Mufasa: “Simba, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars. The great kings of the past are up there, watching over us. So, whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you.”
The movie is a brilliant statement about mankind, wrapped in a cute little love story, topped with a bow of hope. It’s also exceptionally quiet by just about any movie standard.
And it’s nice to watch a movie with your kid and not wonder afterwards if you just caused permanent damage to his eardrums.
Captain: “This is called farming! You kids are gonna grow all kinds of plants! Vegetable plants … pizza plants. Oh, it’s good to be home!”
This is a fun, and funny movie that has a rather simple message: real winners aren’t jerks. Plus, it stars Paul Newman, Cheech and Larry the Cable Guy among others, and if that isn’t a recipe for success then nothing is.
Lightning McQueen: “Well, you know, race cars don’t need headlights, because the track is always lit.”
Dusty Rust-eze: “Well, so is my brother, but he still needs headlights!”
4. Finding Nemo
So long as you skip past the first scene, this is a perfect kids’ movie: cute, funny, hopeful, extremely marketable and it portrays that classic lesson of childhood: Be afraid of the dentist!
Dory: “Hey there, Mr. Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down, do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do?”
Marlin: “No I don’t wanna know.”
Dory: “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming!”
3. Beauty and the Beast
One of the oldest tales, “the Princess and the Rawwrrr,” as my oldest boy calls it, is the most impressive kids movie for visual beauty and music. It’s also got a nice, steady dose of humor in it. And who knew that Angela Lansbury, the kooky old lady from “Murder She Wrote,” could sing her tushy off? Well, she can, so this will always be considered one of the best.
Beast: “I want to do something for her … but what?”
Cogsworth: “Well, there’s the usual things: flowers, chocolates … promises you don’t intend to keep.”
2. Kung Fu Panda
Kids love this movie. Parents love the positive message: Everybody is unique and is capable of accomplishing something incredible, even if they don’t think they can — or even if they’re sort of wacky and slovenly, rather like Jack Black.
Po: “Wait, wait … it’s just plain old noodle soup? You don’t add some kind of special sauce or something?”
Mr. Ping: “Don’t have to. To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.”
1. Despicable Me
This hip, funny, highly entertaining flick takes a traditional kids’ movie, shakes it up, gives it a cocktail and sends it on its way. Steve Carell creates a lovable bad guy. And the music, from a wild mix of The Bee Gees, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, Pharrell and Lynyrd Skynyrd, adds a magical draw to it. Plus, no one gets killed.
Gru: “Do you speak Spanish?”
Miss Hattie: “Do I look like someone who speaks Spanish?”
Gru: “It’s just that your face is so … Como un burro.”
Miss Hattie: “Oh! Why, thank you!”