Making a suitable kids' movie choice isn't child's play

CAL WILSON
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2013
 Cal Wilson
NO CHILD'S PLAY: Cal Wilson discovers that Peter Pan 'was actually a bit of a dick.'

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One of the biggest risks in life is taking a four-year-old to the movies. There are so many things to consider. How long is it? How many people will he annoy? Is he going to want to eat his own body weight in popcorn? Will it be too scary? Too grown-up? Too mind-numbingly boring for mummy and daddy? So, thinking ''What could be more harmless than classic Disney?'' we took him to Peter Pan.

When you watch a favourite kids' movie as an adult, it's always full of little things you missed the first time around. For example, Tinker Bell deliberately flashing her knickers, or all those topless mermaids. Sure, there was strategic hair placement, but there was also some serious aquatic side-boob.

Like Mickey Rourke, Peter Pan hasn't aged that gracefully. I'd never picked up that P. Pan was actually a bit of a dick, pitting Wendy against the mermaids, against charming racist stereotype Tiger Lily.

With adult eyes, there's a lot that's a little off about the movie. At the beginning of the film, Mr Darling displays some serious anger-management issues, and then he and his wife leave their children in the care of a St Bernard wearing a hat. In the '50s, dog-based child care may have been fine, but these days it would get you a visit from a child protection officer.

Of course, my son didn't care about any of that. He just wanted to see the pirates, but even they gave me conniptions, with Captain Hook casually murdering another pirate just for singing. As someone who is easily annoyed by off-key warbling, I could sympathise, but if my son picks up that attitude, my husband is in grave danger.

I had rosy memories of that other classic Bambi, with it's wobbly-legged fawn and adorable bunny chum Thumper. Revisiting it a few years ago, I was shocked by the horror: Bambi's mother gets killed by hunters, Bambi gets shot, and there's a fatal forest fire. Then there's the most gruesome part of all: Thumper succumbs to a bout of myxomatosis and becomes a zombie, then Bambi gets infected, and they eat all the hunters.

I thought maybe we'd have more luck with a modern children's film. Now, there are some kids' movies (Toy Story, Up) you can happily go to without a child in tow. Dinosaur Train: Dinosaur Big City is not one of them. How is that even a proper title, for a start? It's like terrible fridge poetry.

For those of you who aren't staff members to an under-five, Dinosaur Train is basically about Buddy, a young tyrannosaurus, who's been taken in by pteranodons (flying reptile things), without any acknowledgement that, at some point in later life, he's going to treat his adopted family as hors d'oeuvres.

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To get round that whole the-interesting-dinosaurs-didn't-all-live-in-the-same-era conundrum, there's a time travelling train that picks them all up, so they can hang out together. I hope I haven't made that sound too interesting, because DT:DBC is cheesy and tedious, and made me want to jam my hand in a door. By the end of it, I was longing for some Peter Pan-style inappropriateness, or Bambi's hunters to take out some of these flying reptiles.

We finally hit the jackpot with Monsters University, which is the prequel to Monsters, Inc. It turns out that explaining the idea of a prequel to a little kid is quite tricky. In the end I went with: ''They finished telling the story in the first movie, but then they wanted to make some more money.''

My son just couldn't get the concept that this was a story about Mike Wazowski (one-eyed pea creature) and Sully (Mardi Gras yeti) when they were younger, so explained it to himself as ''They're just pretending to be other people'', and we left it at that.

The animation is beautiful (and incredible), the voice work is fantastic and there are the requisite good gags for grown-ups. Initially, I worried the monsters' scariness might actually be too scary, but Digby lapped it all up, and loved every minute. So, after that success, we've decided to relax. Next week we're taking him to see World War Z.

- The Age

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