Posted 02 August 2004 - 10:22 AM
I agree completley. Childrens' films, like literature, often reach far deeper and explore more fundamental issues than 'adult' things as, well, children's concerns, questions and fears are very fundamental. What's good and evil, what happens after death, what happens when we grow up and do we suddenly become "different" at some point in our lives etc. These sorts of things do crop up in 'adult' cinema but often not as vivdly. In a broader sense, a good kid's movie is like a Hollywood blockbuster. It's designed to promote "feelings" rather than "thoughts" The difference being that these sorts of feelings are important for a child to experience when growing up, whereas for in blockbusters they're often being used as an alternative for thinking.
I would put Paul Hogan's Peter Pan (2003) onto this list. The Peter Pan story, when well handled, is one of the best explorations of growing up and how becoming a well rounded adult is actually something for a child to aspire to. Not all the film versions, though, have managed to draw this out very well. Sadly, the Disney version pretty much guts the reality of the story in favour of cartoon pleasure (like most of the Disney films of the fifties.) Spielberg's Hook, although something of a guilty pleasure for me, is a bit of a mess. It has the most genuine affirmation of parental love, the importance of growing up and how childhood imagination can enrich development. But it also tries to tap into the 90s idea of 'being cool' skateboarding/egg gun wielding Lost Boy shannenigans. It's less than fifteen years old and already Hook's presentation of youth feels incredibly dated, which is a bit of a kiss of death to a story about eternal, enduring childhood.
Only Hogan's version balances the colour and wonder of Neverland with the 'development' side of the story and the realisation that Neverland (and childhood itself) is not a place where one can dwell forever. More importantly, perhaps, it's the only one which plays Peter going back to Neverland at the story's end as a bad thing. He may be going back to Neverland with Tinkerbell, but we realise he's going to miss the greater adventure of growing up. It also has one of my all time greatest pleasure moments at the cinema, when Hook tries to think of 'happy thoughts' to make himself fly: "Lawyers! Dentists!" etc. etc.