What films did you watch repeatedly as a kid that you are afraid to revisit now that you are older? I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I observe the viewing habits of my own son. At two years-old my son has not grown any real taste for film yet. His short attention span only seems to be interested in kids shows such as Bubble Guppies and Toopy & Binoo (Canadian parents will know this one all too well). However, I have noticed that he seems to be fairly fond of two particular films: The Red Balloon and Cars.
I know he will grow out of this phase, and probably forget his affinity for both of these films, but I cannot help but be fascinated by this. Having only discovered Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon recently at age thirty-four, I am amazed by how the film captivates my son. Though I am convinced his interest in it lies solely in watching the balloon travel around town; he has watched the film enough times at this point that he consistently reacts appropriately at all the right moments. While he is far too young to understand the death/rebirth symbolism in the film, he seems to display genuine concern the safety of the balloon. He even proclaims “too hot” whenever we reach the scene where the steam from a passing train briefly engulfs the balloon. To date we have watched the film close to twenty times and he has yet to get tired of it. I even went out and purchased the Red Balloon/White Mane DVD, though we have not attempted to watch White Mane yet.
While my son does not sit through Cars quietly like he does with The Red Balloon, which at 34 minutes is the perfect running time for kids, he does enjoy having it on in the background occasionally while he plays with his own toy cars. His overall fascination with Cars is less shocking, really what kid does not like Disney?
Those who know me can attest that I once hated Cars with a passion. I considered it in the bottom five of Pixar’s canon along with Monster’s Inc., another beloved Pixar film. However, after watching Cars for the fifth or sixth time with my son, I am starting to slowly appreciate all the little things the film does well instead of the stuff that once irked me in the past. I think this is more due to submission by way of repetition more than anything else. Really, if one watches a film enough times, its charms will begin to appear. Yes this even goes for a film like Grandma’s Boy…though it would most likely take A Clockwork Orange style viewing session to be convinced that film is good.
Regardless, this got me thinking back to some of the films I remember loving when I was younger. The animated G.I. Joe and Transformers movies immediately come to mind. Having not watched these films for many years I am almost afraid to revisit them for fear of ruining my fond childhood memories. Are they actually bad films that I enjoyed simply because I watched them, and the cartoons they were based on, over and over again?
The same can be said for Cloak & Dagger, The Last Starfighter, The NeverEnding Story, and Flight of the Navigator. There was a period when these films were constantly on television which made it easier to consume in the pre-streaming film era that I grew up in. I know my love of these films was partly based on their availability. Of course this was a different time from the instant access world that my son will grow up in.
One day, I know I will sit down with my son and show him some of these titles that shaped my childhood. Hopefully it will not be a painful experience like the time I attempted to show my younger cousins the 80s Thundercats cartoons, a show I loved as a kid. Aside from my cousins frequently looks of boredom, they pretty much deconstructed all the silly aspects of everything I once enjoyed about the show. While I do not anticipate my son will grow up to be a cinephile, it would not be right to impose my obsession on him, I know there will inevitably be that “what did you see in this film?” type of question. Though I could make up a lengthy argument trying to justify a particular film’s merits, I cannot help but wonder if my answer will be “it was just a film that was always on when I was a kid.”