This Filmophilia round table piece focuses on our early experiences with film as pseudo-critics in the making, specifically: the movies that we loved as children, but we realized were not nearly as lovable as we grew up. One of the major gifts of childhood is the simplicity of the mind, the willingness to accept everything as it is. As we grow older we experience and see more of the world and we naturally become more critical of all facets of life, media included.
All of the sudden from we worry about things making sense within a plot and feel betrayed when stories lack feasible plot, dialogue, and character emotions. When our action heroes plunge thousands of feet into arctic waters only to emerge to the surface unscathed, we as adults are irritated by (or at least scoff at) the lack of realism, but for a child, it all seems perfectly plausible. Ignorance is bliss and an absence of cynicism is film bliss
This article compiles the films you loved at 10, but found ridiculous at 20. We are the contributors of Filmophilia and these are our stories.
Adam Dietz- Jaws: The Revenge (Jaws 4)
In 1995, My Grandmother owned three VHS tapes, none of which were age-appropriate for a five year old and none of which make any sense for a woman in her late 60s to have possessed. They were: Witness, The Omen, and Jaws: The Revenge (also known as Jaws 4).My Grandmother and I always stayed very busy together on our visits, but she was 70 and I was five, so at a certain point during each day she, understandably, needed to re-charge her batteries by way of nap. It was during this solitary sleeping period that I got my first real dose of adult films (not the gross kind), but the kinds that didn’t involving talking Genies or Dogs trying to find their way home.
It was decided by someone, presumably my Grandmother, that I ought to entertain myself during her rest period by watching a movie. Of the three movies nestled in a drawer under her 30 inch Sony, none of them were well suited for a five year old as I mentioned. The Harrison Ford film Witness is about an Amish boy who witnesses a murder in a bathroom, so that was immediately off the table. The Omen is about a child born who is the actual son of Satan and begins to exhibit demonic behaviors (the boy in The Omen is five-I was five at this time as well…) . What was left was not a film made for a boy who had not yet learned to ride a bicycle or count, but it was the lesser of the three evils, so I watched-and I watched-and I watched Jaws: The Revenge (Jaws 4) and for that year and the two, or so, that followed, Jaws: The Revenge was my Casablanca. A perfectly crafted tale of sharks, tropical islands, and cursing. I was in heaven.
I took in Jaws: The Revenge an estimated 30 times being ages five and ten and during this five year period I formed some bizarre opinions and came to some very incorrect conclusions about the film that I didn’t realize to be false until many years later.
Originally, I thought Jaws: The Revenge (Jaws 4) and the original Jaws film (on everyone’s short list as one of the most important films ever made) were the same movie. The word ‘revenge” just didn’t really hold any meaning to me at that time. Growing up, classmates would quote the original Jaws and talk about Sheriff Brody and I would respond with things like “yeah, it sucks he died from shark-related anxiety and left his wife Ellen to fend for herself, that was not cool” but no one ever corrected my assumption that Jaws 4 was the original Jaws, so I went on thinking this until my early teens.
Jaws: The Revenge was the first film that I had ever seen that had consistant swearing (pretty much every scene), so when occurrences of “Son of a Bitch” came every three to four minutes, I really felt like I was getting away with something. I coincidentally adopted it as part of my vocabulary, a strong play for a boy entering second grade. Jaws: The Revenge introduced my five year old self to great Michael Caine who, of course, played pilot Hoagie Newcombe. I didn’t realize Caine was a well-known actor until much-much later. I really loved his accent as a young fella and still have a lot of respect for the bravado he displayed when he landed his tiny plane in the middle of the ocean. What I remember most about watching Jaws: The Revenge is how genuinely scary it was to me. Frightening from both a shark in the water perspective, but also due to my strange perception of the film rating system, I believed that because it was rated “PG-13” and I was five years old that were anyone to find out about me watching the movie that I, or my parents, would have to answer to the authorities.
When did I realize that Jaws: The Revenge wasn’t the greatest-most terrifying movie that was ever made? I would say around age twelve, when I realized that this was not the original Jaws film (maybe revenge was a school spelling word and I began to understand its meaning). As my film viewing sample-size increased, so did my understanding of what was “good” versus what was “bad.” Even as a five year old, some portions of Jaws: The Revenge seemed far-fetched. Particularly, the sub-plot involving Ellen Brody having some strange-unexplained psychic connection with the shark. As the years passed, the acting (especially that of Mario Van Peebles) and the dialogue were exposed as being well below that of the average Hollywood film. The straw that broke the sharks-fin was probably the realization that the main character, Ellen, legitimately believes that the shark is targeting her specifically, seeking revenge for events of earlier Jaws films. The writers belief that an audience would accept the fact that a shark would follow a woman from the Cape Cod area all the way to Bahamas just to settle a score sounds like something cooked up by a five year old, not by a group of adult film writers. I guess 1987 was a different time.
Atli Sigurjónsson- The Running Man
When I was about 7 years old I saw the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man for the first time (yes, I was a weird kid who watched a lot of R-rated movies) and fell in love with it, watching it regularly between the ages of 7-10 or so.
I loved the dystopian future (though of course I didn’t know the word dystopia then) was fascinated by the game of the Running Man, and really enjoyed all the cool bad guys, with names like Buzz-Saw and Sub-Zero, and of course Arnold was one of my heroes. To me, this movie was 2 hours of sheer coolness, I even did reenactments of it with my G.I. Joe action figures. But then, someone accidentally taped over it and I didn’t watch it for a decade or so, until I bought the dvd at age 21 or so.
Much to my dismay, 21-year old me realized that The Running Man is in fact a rather stupid film with broad satire, inane plotting and a lot of really bad dialogue, things that didn’t really occur to a kid aged 7-10. All of a sudden, I saw a film full of potential that didn’t use it, mostly just focusing on silly spectacle and obvious attempts at satirizing the state of modern entertainment. It’s also as 80’s as a movie can get and rather hopelessly dated, complete with mullets and a cheesy pop ballad in the end credits. Yet, I still didn’t hate it. I still loved the concept and still thought the bad guys were kinda fun, and it does contain a terrific performance from Richard Dawson as the host of the Running Man show. It also has some awesome one-liners, such as Arnie saying “he was a pain in the neck” right after choking a guy with a barbed wire! But alas, The Running Man is far from a fave of mine anymore, just a silly little childhood memory that’s been sadly smudged by time.
Erlingur Grétar Einarsson- Coneheads
I originally saw Coneheads on video in 1994, then 12 years old, with my sister. I loved it then, laughing at the gags jokes, like the teenage girl calling her mother and father “parental units” and Dan Aykroyd trying to appear like a regular human. I liked it so much that when signed up to IMDb about 3 years later, I gave it a ridiculous 9 out of 10.
About 10 years later, I saw the film again and dear Mother of Dragons. It. Is. Bad. Truly an atrocious crime against not only cinema, but the art of comedy in all its forms. Aykroyd’s painfully miscued comedy makes it no surprise that he’s not exactly the busiest actor in Hollywood today, the director either had no idea what he was doing or just didn’t give a fuck, and the set and costumes look like they were designed by blind people with a variety of neural and motor function diseases. It is such a bad film that I still haven’t dared to re-watch The Addams Family…
Carlos Aguilar- Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie
Shame. That’s the only word one can use as an aspiring filmmaker/film journalist when speaking of a forgotten love for the cheesy, cheap, ridiculous Mighty Morphing Power Rangers: The Movie. To my defense I must say we were probably all very easily impressed as kids. I grew up in the 90’s, an era in which CGI was still not the norm and where kids still could be entertained by cartoons and board games. Therefore, it is not strange that a young boy would have fallen in love with the action-packed TV series, so when the franchise took on the big screen, it was obvious I would be desperate to watch.
The movie took all the really bad things from the show and exponentially made them dumber. Still, I was mesmerized as a 6 year-old watching the hilarious villains in their outrageous Barney-like suits, and the amazing robot v. monsters battles. Watching the film now I think to myself “What is this? How can I sit through an art house film when I was in love with this crap as a kid?” Undoubtedly a film like this could only work in the 90’s where a certain level of innocence still prevailed in children. As a kid I was easily impressed with the fight sequences, the badass suit the White Ranger wore, and the fakeness of it all. For today’s visual standards in cinema this is trash, but God did I love it when it came out.
To forgive myself for this I should fully disclose the extent of my obsession. Action figures? Had them. Power Ranger mask? Had it. Stickers? Yes. Coloring Books? That’s right. A copy of the film on VHS? Of course. I even knew the theme song and pretend to be part of the action! Looking back I can say that though I know how bad this movie is, it is a complete nostalgic trip to remember it. It takes you back to the days where a fight sequence between men dressed as evil crows and some teenagers in colorful costumes could bring a smile to your face, no questions asked. That my friends is a throwback moment.