“It’s just a kid’s movie.”
I do not like this phrase. As a way of excusing or justifying poor storytelling (or, worse, a poor story), it feels weird to me. As in, is the person uttering it really trying to say that because it’s for a child, it’s OK if it is not well made? That quality doesn’t matter? That throw any ol’ thing onto the screen and that’s enough?
Because to say that in other contexts can be quite bizarre, no? “It’s only a child seat. Quality isn’t important here.” “It’s only kid’s food… it doesn’t matter if its good or healthy, they won’t know the difference.”
To me, the thing is, they’re our children. We should want to provide them with the best. To give them the biggest and best leg up in life. To let them grow.
No, that doesn’t mean a movie has to dissect the epistemological underpinnings of post-dynamism economies, but kids are way more capable than we often give them credit for. And no, that also doesn’t mean that every movie has to teach something either (though they can), just the same as it is for adults. There are plenty of rich, amazing, and profound stories we can tell, and tell them with excellent storytelling craft that engages, whether it be to inspire, to enlighten, or to simply amuse. Or to do all three at once, and more.
And that’s the biggest thing for me about that phrase… because it’s not like there aren’t already excellent examples of movies ostensibly made for kids that are, well, excellent. Movies that are excellent on many levels. Take many of the works of Pixar, Disney movies (including my most favourite, of course), and, most certainly, the amazing (even stunning) works of Hayao Miyazaki. Movies that are moving, Illuminating, full of heart, and that deal with the inner drama of both children (in a most profound Mr Rogers way) and of people in general. While also being appealing, funny, delightful, charming, and captivatingly well told, a pure delight to watch.
So much so that not only do kids like them, but they are movies that are beloved in a general sense, from young to old alike, and whether we have children ourselves or do not. They are simply good stories. Good movies. And good stories attract everyone.
We can make these amazing stories. We do. And kids deserve them. There should be nothing “just” about a kid’s movie (or any other work of fiction).
And I invite us all to ask for it.