Southern California resident Jonathan Dale, the author and operator of Imperial Valley Press’ Geek Corner emailed me before the new year with an interesting idea for a Top 10 list. I’ll let him take over from here. Remember, if you’d like to submit your own Top 10 list for publication, just email me at email@example.com. In the meantime, here’s Jonathan:
Hello fellow movie-lovers, today I’m bringing to you a list of my top adult scenes in kids movies. To clarify, by “adult” I’m referring to “mature” scenes; those whose emotional impact are completely lost on little ones, and can only be appreciated by adults. Hence, no “Shrek” jokes. And, of course, “mature” and “adult” are used here as merely adjectives, and not a filmmaking genre whose greatest stars are known for something other than their acting ability.
10. The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Is it just me or did the Nothing—the dastardly nefarious force eating away the realm of fantastical imagination in “The Neverending Story”—not have nearly the same impact on me as a child as did Atreyu’s horse dying or the ferocious wolf near the end? The only thing scary as a kid to me about the Nothing was imagining I was on those pieces of earth floating in space. As an adult, however, I truly appreciate the inherit terror in the Nothing. It was going to destroy our imaginations, filling out heads with Nothing. Adults don’t like “nothing.” We want to be able to think for ourselves and not be like everyone else, which is exactly what was threatened in this cult-classic kids movie.
9. Space Jam (1996)
I’ve always liked this movie for what it was: a silly mash-up of cartoons and basketball. But the underlying socio-economic tension was lost on me in my younger years. Let’s review: The Monstars’ boss wants to chain up Michael Jordan, the most popular black athlete of all time, as a slave. Read that again. Now on to exhibit B: One real-world possible explanation for Jordan being out of the NBA was because of his gambling debts (something the public didn’t know about at the time). This whole movie sought to mask that ugly time period where MJ was out of basketball and played some horrible baseball by explaining that the reason he came back to the NBA was because of his cartoony victory in Space Jam. Went right over my head at the time.
8. Home Alone (1990)
It’s all fun and games to see those ever-cool mini-vehicle toys known as Micro Machines put to good use against two bumbling crooks, but that all ends when Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) finally capture Kevin (impossibly cute kid icon Macaulay Culkin). Scary stuff. For some reason, as a kid, I knew that everything would turn out alright. But as an adult, knowing the R-rated lowlifes Joe Pesci has played in other movies, I get real worried. That part where Harry threatens to cannibalize the poor kid’s fingers still has me legitimately creeped out. Start at 6:57.
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7. Labyrinth (1986)
I’ve never seen David Bowie look pervier than his character of Jareth the Goblin King in this Muppetty fantasy classic from Jim Henson. Bowie kidnaps a baby boy and stalks a teenage Jennifer Connelly. Can we at least get some less, ahem, “form-fitting” pants? What was the costume department thinking?
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6. Willow (1988)
I’m sure that most of you—like me—saw this ’80s George Lucas-written, Ron Howard-directed fantasy flick when we were kids, but have you watched it recently? This movie has some seriously dark parts that my mind must have blocked out in the past 15 years or so, as well as a couple of ridiculously awesome sword-fighting sequences featuring Mr. Val Kilmer. While the romantic scenes between Willow and his wife or the ones between Madmartigan and his new crush are obvious candidates for this list (any love scenes in a kids movie are), the scenes that stand out as too adult to me would include any with Jean Marsh’s Queen Bavmorda. That evil witch turns her own daughter into a pig and bounds a crying baby with electric tape in preparation for an evil spell that will send the baby to Hell. Cold and cruel. Bonus points to the triumphant/tragic scene where good witch Fin Raziel finally turns human once again, only to realize that she’s spent the vast majority of her life stuck in an animal’s body, depriving her of the beauty she once had.
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5. Transformers (2007)
“What?!” you may cry with disgust. “How does a Michael Bay movie have anything mature it it?” And I agree. The man drives one horse: mindless action flick (which he admittedly does pretty well). But for those of us who grew up on the Transformers in the ’80s, Bay’s explosive moneymaker does have one part that hit adults harder than kids: Jazz’s death. I can remember my Transformers blanket as a child: scratchy and uncomfortable, but it had the best Autobots on there, in robot and vehicle form. I can remember seeing Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ironhide, and Jazz anytime I wanted. Jazz had the cool factor that completed Prime’s unfailing heroism, Ironhide’s militant attitude, and Bumblebee’s meekness. Those years of memories made me stare in disbelief as Megatron ripped one of the stalwarts of my childhood apart in the live-action adaptation. Again: Ripped. Jazz. In. Two.
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4. Return of the Jedi (1983)
The sixth “Star Wars” episode was certainly a child favorite, considering George Lucas went out of his way to make it as “kiddie” as possible. So as a child, of course we’re excited to see the cuddly Ewoks take on the faceless Stormtroopers and win! But as an adult, this movie has opened my eyes (and I’m not just talking about Han palming a little bit of Leia, if you know what I mean). Think about this: Fuzzy bears defeat what are supposed to be hardened intergalactic troops with rocks and trees. This is worse than “The Phantom Menace”—at least the idioticly racist Gungans had weapons that were designed to take down metal. The Ewoks don’t even wear body armor for crying out loud! They have no devastatingly fearsome creatures to ride into battle and no appropriate weapons either, all of which takes away the previously legitimate threat the dudes in white represented in the original “Star Wars” movies.
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (extended edition) (2003)
Peter Jackson’s awesome LOTR movies are obviously not made for kids first and foremost, but most of it affects children appropriately. The grandfatherly Gandalf’s fall into the abyss, scary monsters, sword-fighting, machine-gun-like arrow-shooting: Kids get that. But a scene in the final movie’s four-hour extended edition probably flys right over the heads of little ones. Karl Urban’s Eomer is looking over the dead Rohirrim after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields when he spots his motionless sister. Kids almost invariably dislike their siblings in some way, yet they couldn’t fathom ahead of time what it would be like without them. We as adults can. The wild-eyed look Urban’s character gets on his face, followed by the most blood-curdling and sorrowful weeping I’ve ever seen, instantly made Urban one of my favorite underappreciated actors. (“Doom,” baby!) Start at 8:52:
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2. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
As a kid, this marvelous film was even cooler simply because it combined real-life people with Looney Tunes, Disney characters, and assorted wacky animations in a real-world setting, meaning: If we lived in this world, we could hang out with cartoons! The puppy-like shoe melting in the Dip (the horrible cartoon-killing mix) and the fact that good ol’ Doc Brown from “Back to the Future” (Christopher Lloyd) was the bad guy were appropriately scary for kids, but watching this film a month ago I was hit upside the head with a scene that I overlooked as a child. (And I’m not talking about “Is that a rabbit in your pants or are you just glad to see me?” or “Dipping in watercolors, Eddie?” lines, although those work too!) What I’m referring to is the scene where Roger Rabbit is in Eddie Valiant’s (Bob Hoskins) office and makes the mistake of touching Eddie’s brother’s chair. The fury in Hoskins’ voice and the realization that the inches of dust on the other side of his desk meant Eddie hadn’t touched the desk since his brother died really added dimension to what I have always viewed as a fun kids’ movie. Start at 7:16:
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1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)
As a huge fan of the book series (and all of C.S. Lewis’ writings), I’ll be the first to admit that the new “Chronicles of Narnia” movies have found that special spot inside me where I view them through the lenses of childlike glee. However, amongst the many well-done scenes in the movie version that don’t appear in the book is one in particular that hit me hard in a way I wouldn’t have understood as a kid. Pre-crowned king Peter (William Moseley) is doing the kingly thing by following up the Narnians’ retreat into the rocky hillside when a black dwarf shoots out the steed beneath him, tossing Peter to the ground. Cut to the wickedly awesome centaur general as he looks back on his fallen king and then at a snorting rhino before they both charge back, hellbent on saving their leader. Their faith in Aslan that this mere boy needs to live to change the land for the better and their devotion to this new king kicks me in the gut every time. They sacrifice themselves to buy Peter some time. This vividly makes clear to me why men would charge into battle after Julius Caesar and Alexander thousands of years ago. Start at 1:41:
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This Constructicon makes its first appearance in the movie franchise in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”