I was not a film critic as a child, and there were a lot of movies I liked then that wouldn't appeal to me today: Benji, Candleshoe, The Love Bug and all those Tim Conway/Don Knotts movies leap to mind. And I didn't like some movies the first time I saw them. I was disappointed that Freaky Friday was not like the book (the remake is better), and I've always felt Gene Wilder was a little creepy both in The Little Prince and -- don't kill me -- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There are a number of movies I can't enjoy anymore because I am appalled by the gender or racial stereotypes. And some are too saccharine for words. In fact, there are a number of childhood favorites that I think it's best for me not to see again at all, because I prefer to remember them fondly without the reality of a contemporary viewing to shatter my illusions.
However, it's a wonderful feeling to revisit a childhood favorite and discover that the movie is still fun to watch. I'd much rather tell you about the films I loved as a child or pre-teen that I still watch and enjoy today, than dwell on the ones that don't hold up very well. Compiling this list has caused me to draw up a list of movies that I haven't seen since I was younger that I'd like to see again soon -- Yellow Submarine, which I enjoyed as early as age six, isn't on the list because I haven't seen the complete movie since college, but I think I'd still like it. And I've been tempted lately to check out those early Kurt Russell films from Disney like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. The seven movies on the following list are all films I liked when I was young and still like now -- "young" meaning all the way up into my early teenage years, because I was able to watch better movies I am more likely to remember and that appeal to me now.
For me, this is THE childhood movie. I don't know who in our family was inspired to videotape the 1980 film when it first aired on TV, but we all ended up watching it again and again. The sports-movie underdog plot is predictable, but the characters stick with you and some of the dialogue is priceless. The serenade sequence, the practice session behind the 18-wheeler, the races -- I'm tempted to play hookey today and watch this movie again right now. Of course I own the DVD (a gift from my husband, who does not quite understand my feelings for this film).
I rented this movie last year (after posting an image here) to see if I would like it as much as I had when I was growing up. It was another movie that we taped from the TV and watched repeatedly. My Bodyguard is more uneven than Breaking Away. The comic subplots with Ruth Gordon and Martin Mull are amusing, but seem to belong in an entirely different movie. They jar awkwardly with the main storyline involving high school kids, played by Chris Makepeace, Adam Baldwin and Matt Dillon. My Bodyguard is still worth watching -- a nice sleeper that deserves a better DVD release.
The Muppet Movie/The Great Muppet Caper
Of all the Muppet movies, the first two are the ones I love the best, and I saw them both in theaters when they were first released. The Muppet Movie is more of a nostalgia trip for me -- tons of silly cameos, songs that are occasionally sappy but still enjoyable, goofy running gags. Plus, you have to love movies that have a pretend celluloid meltdown in the middle. As an adult, I like watching Charles Durning and Austin Pendleton. The Great Muppet Caper has more of a storyline, with an actual caper-film plot as well as spoofs of Fred Astaire and Esther Williams musical numbers. Charles Grodin and Diana Rigg are delightful, John Cleese has one of the funniest sequences in the film, and I have always wanted to stay at the Happiness Hotel myself.
Harold and Maude
Yes indeed, this is a childhood movie for me. When we were very young, my parents would see this movie whenever it played an arthouse/repertory theater in the New Orleans area, and we weren't allowed to go. The movie acquired a certain mystique for us kids. We had to wait until my dad could acquire a videotape of the movie to watch it. The entire family plus miscellaneous relatives gathered around to see the film he'd been raving about for years, and no one was disappointed. I remember the end making me so sad after that I cried, but since I would never do that in public, I had to slip off to my bedroom, lock the door, and cry with my face stuffed in the pillow. Everyone probably thought I was stomping off to be an antisocial preteen. I also loved the soundtrack of Cat Stevens songs, which had to be cobbled together from various sources since a soundtrack album was never released. I'm a lot less of a sullen teen but I still enjoy watching this movie from time to time -- I have the DVD but it is especially good with an appreciative audience.
We saw a lot of Disney films growing up, many of which have not stood the test of time. I don't think I could last through The Apple Dumpling Gang or Escape to Witch Mountain today. The two Disney animated films I liked then and still enjoy are Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Sleeping Beauty has the least bland Disney princess from that era, Aurora/Briar Rose, and also one of the scariest villianesses. That climactic scene with the dragon is riveting even for adults. Cinderella has the adorable singing mice and better yet, Lucifer the cat. The grownup in me is very fond of the bad-tempered cat and feels like he's an underrated character. I was fond of another Cinderella story, The Slipper and the Rose, when I was growing up, but I've had no chance to see if that movie still entertains me.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
I didn't want to see this movie when it was first released, even though I liked Harrison Ford very much in the first two Star Wars movies. I wasn't a big action-adventure fan at the time. My dad and brother saw it, then insisted that my mom and I go to the theater the following night and see the movie. I have loved it ever since, and every couple of years, if it's playing in a theater I will go see it again. I love Raiders of the Lost Ark so much that I would be very happy if no more sequels were attempted, and I am currently disinclined to see Indiana Jones 4 when it is released in a few years. I don't want anyone messing with my childhood favorites (as with the next film on this list).
Mel Brooks' films were still very popular when I was young, but my parents wouldn't let me watch any of the films released in theaters. I was allowed to watch only the first half of Young Frankenstein on TV, and of course I wasn't allowed anywhere near Blazing Saddles. But somehow it was believed that The Producers was a relatively clean movie, since it aired unedited on television, so I was allowed to watch it at a fairly young age. I knew right away it was something I probably wasn't supposed to have seen, and I revelled in it. I'm sure the movie had an unwholesome effect on me -- I remember going to see a live performance of Peter Pan, reading the program, pointing to the actor playing Captain Hook (Christopher Hewitt) and saying, "That's the guy who wore a dress in The Producers!" much to my mother's mortification. The remake made me sad because it was nowhere near as good as the original -- you can't touch Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel (although I did like Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell).