Friday, April 10, 2009

Weekly Classic Kids' Movie

I haven’t yet done a Kids’ Classic of the Week that was a thumbs down. Until now.

Listen, Where the Red Fern Grows (1974) might have been a fine novel, and perhaps a fine movie back in 1974, but I just can’t recommend it in 2009.

The story of a boy and his “coon hounds” takes place in 1930’s Ozark Mountains in Oklahoma. I will say this: I know it’s unfair to say it feels like an extended Waltons special, but it does (I’d rather watch The Waltons, a wonderful TV series, again), and I couldn’t shake it. (It doesn’t help that Beverly Garland, the mom, kept reminding me of Michael Learned’s Mother Walton).

Beyond squirming (me, not son K, who walked in and out of the movie three times) through scenes such as chopping down huge, beautiful trees just to catch a raccoon (really? is that what they did?), or a mountain lion vs. dog fight (that was real, staged for the cameras), the movie felt flat, slow (sloooow) and incredibly dated. Some of these things just don’t hold up well. You can’t argue.

Long stretches of the kid running through beautiful Ozark mountains and meadows, with Andy Williams crooning in the background (yes, Andy Williams; I know some of you don’t even know who he is. I’ll wait while you run over to Wikipedia), and lingering close-ups of a perennially troubled mom take up about half the film, with “coon hunts” and unpleasant, bullying kids taking up another half. There you have it, pretty much.

I won’t talk about the boom mic being seen in shots, or the surprise violence (a kid gets killed, the aforementioned animal brawl, mean boys, sad as heck ending), or the plentiful God talk (pretty much every bit of drama is explained away by God’s intent). I’ll just say, you could do better in the classic kids’ movie department.

I think a lot of these old “family” films really just don’t hold up. Take a look at this trailer for The Yearling (1946), which I had on my list to check out. I think I’ll leave it to you to research this one. Let me know what you think.

If you’re really in the mood for an old classic this weekend, try National Velvet (1944, Liz Taylor, Mickey Rooney). I know the ending is pretty sad, so if you want to wait for me to review it, and tell you just how tragic it might be, I’ll do it soon. It’s on my “instant view” Netflix list; it's a film I've always wanted to see.

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