It’s a question that comes up a lot, especially in regards to the most recent series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. Every single time I, or anyone else, bring up a criticism of the film, the reply is always the same: “it’s a kids’ movie”. Naturally, I take issue with this statement, otherwise I wouldn’t have written an article about it, but it’s an interesting idea, isn’t it? Whether or not flaws I find should be forgiven because I’m not the target audience.
Staying specifically on the track of kids movies, I think there are a good few reasons why I’m justified in my lack of forgiveness. First is the cynical business answer: there’s no such thing as a kids movie.
Allow me to clarify that ultimatum. Obviously there’s such a thing as a film that’s trying to gain the attention of children, but there are actually incredibly few films aimed exclusively at those under the age of 10. The reason for this is that when a kid wants to see a film, (s)he needs to be taken to the cinema by an adult, normally a parent. Hollywood knows this, and it also knows that parents get the final say over the movies which get seen. Basically, the point I’m making is that Hollywood will nearly always try to ensure that children’s movies appeal to mature audiences to some degree. Hence why you’ll often find hidden dirty jokes in Disney films, and armies of pop-culture references in Dreamworks films.
That’s a fairly weak point though, as garnering a child’s enthusiasm over a movie is still the main focus of many films. Hence why movies like Minions becoming a thing, and inexplicably break box-office records
Fear not however, for I have more to say on this matter. Kids are not stupid. As a matter of fact they can often be a lot sharper than most adults, and regularly notice things you’d sometimes rather they didn’t. They are different from grown-ups, sure, as they’re more naïve and have seen less of the world. Despite that, having been a child not too long ago, I would argue that kids aren’t stupider than us, they just operate on a different mode of logic. Yes, they know less about many things, but their senses are more attuned to many different areas.
My point being, they don’t deserve simply lesser versions of the films we mature moviegoers receive, for they are not merely lesser versions of their adult counterparts. Kids see the world in a whole different way from us, and so they deserve films that cater to their different ideas and perspectives, much like everyone else deserves.
To justify anything with “it’s just a kids’ movie” is to dismiss both the intellect of children, and their right to good entertainment. Was The Lego Movie just a kids’ film? Was Toy Story just a kids’ film? Was The Lion King just a kids’ film? Of course not, these were excellent movies filled with ideas and characters children could relate to and learn from.
Kids’ films are a genre unto themselves, one that is arguably much harder to master than pretty much any other genre in existence. That’s why Pixar were, and are, so successful: they made films about and for kids. Toy Story is about growing up, Finding Nemo is about parent-child relationships, The Incredibles is about being a mature adult, Up is about moving on, and all the other classics also tackle themes inherently relevant to children.
So to answer my own question from the title, kids' films probably should be judged differently, for children are different from adults, but that doesn't give any movie an excuse for shoddy filmmaking. Rather it should cause filmmakers to give pause and put more effort into their work, for kids deserve better than just sub-par entertainment with a bright and glossy coat of paint.
There you go, my thoughts on an issue that really bugs me to the core. If you enjoyed it, you can read more like it at my personal site/blog: Fixing Hollywood, where I tend to write more in-depth articles than I do here. Also, I'd be interested to know if anyone else gets annoyed about this, or if you have a particular "kids" film that you love, which you hold as an example of how good they can be. If so then let us know in the comments below