Sometimes when I read the daily paper or watch the evening news, I openly weep for the children of today.
Not because they”re facing new dangers in drug use or because the quality of a public school education is rapidly diminishing or because they”re confronted with violence in every direction they turn.
No, I shed my tears for a much greater injustice: Today”s children are not being offered the same brand of excellent kids” movies that were commonplace a generation ago.
If your grade school years fell between Gibby in “84 and Joe D. in “90, you should consider yourself very lucky: You were firsthand witness to one of the most dynamic periods in the child-adventure film industry (not to mention Michigan professional sports at their finest).
Back when we were still having recess twice a day not unlike today”s average Kinesiology student the major studios were churning out one kid-oriented epic after another. “The Goonies.” “The Flight of the Navigator.” “Adventures in Babysitting.” “SpaceCamp.” “The NeverEnding Story.” “WarGames.” “Iron Eagle.”
These were movies that placed children in the role of protagonist and showed them to be just as capable of solving problems/saving the day as their adult counterparts. The kids of today simply do not experience the same kind of positive portrayals as we did and I have to believe that it will make a difference in their adult lives.
If you just stop for a second and think what we learned from those films, you”ll be glad you were a child of the Reagan era you know, as if possessing the title “child of the Reagan era” wasn”t enough to make you whistle Dixie.
From “The Goonies,” the sterling flagship of the “80s child-adventure film fleet, we learned that a group of 12-year olds could not only outsmart evil Italian criminals and circumvent underground booty traps (booby traps, that”s what I said), but also show acceptance for large, chocolate-loving freaks suffering from severe birth defects. I”m referring, of course, to Chunk.
Just as “The Goonies” featured the always-popular “rag-tag bunch” approach to casting, stock characterization was also used to great success in “SpaceCamp,” in which each member of the teen-aged crew aboard the runaway shuttle was able to step up and use their unique, individualized talent at just the right moment to narrowly avert disaster.
These “Lea Thompson, only you can land the shuttle!” scenarios showed children of the “80s that every person has one special ability. That or a robot named Jinx.
Every pretentiously artsy English major who”s ever donned the black turtleneck will tell you that, in their youth, they found a quality teacher in the Bastian character from “The NeverEnding Story.” To wit:
Valuable Lesson One: To spend all of your time reading mystical fairy tales isn”t necessarily “gay” or “fruity” or “indicative of a homosexual lifestyle.”
Valuable Lesson Two: The same can”t always be said for guys named Bastian.
And the secrets don”t stop there, Mr. Willy.
If there”s trouble brewing overseas, don”t trust your government trust an old black man named Chappy. He”ll get you the fighter jet you need to instill peace in the Middle East. Chappy.
Twenty-one years of age is in no way too old to still be waiting for a babysitter who looks like Elisabeth Shue. Please tuck me in.
If someone ever asks you to play a game called “Global Thermonuclear War,” you”re probably going to want to decline and stick to more non-apocalyptic recreations like Candyland, Connect Four and Chutes and Ladders. But, if you”re really bent on risking life and limb for a cheap thrill, might I suggest Hungry Hungry Hippos?
Chris Kula”s column runs every Thursday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him to do the Truffle Shuffle.