So here we are with part two of my Quintessential Kid Films from the 80’s list. I’ve left out some fantasy films that I love, but that’s mainly because I want to stick with films that are about kids. I’ll cover films like KRULL and LEGEND in a future post. But anyways, so here’s the list as promised, enjoy it! And sorry if I use the word “magical” too much, it’s the 80’s that does that to me. What a magical decade!
Film: Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Comments: Honey I Shrunk the Kids comes to us from the minds of Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna, two director/producers who are normally not associated with kids films. Normally the name Stuart Gordon is accompanied by images of talking decapitated heads, or scientists experimenting with interdimensional travel. But not this time around. With Honey I Shrunk the Kids Gordon and Yuzna decided to make a children’s film for Disney and surprisingly, they nailed it. This movie went on to become one of the biggest money makers that summer of ’89. Story concerns a scientist who creates a machine that shrinks things to minuscule sizes, his kids are accidentally zapped by it and voila! We have a movie! The kids get lost in the backyard and have to do battle against giant ants, bees and the sprinkler system! Inventive effects make this one a fun ride, it also helps that Rick Moranis plays the crazy scientist father, damn, Moranis is sorely missed in movies as far as I’m concerned.
Quote: “I don’t think we’re in the food chain anymore Dorothy!”
Film: Big (1988)
Comments: Big is a coming of age film about a 12 year old kid who (like many kids at that age) wishes he was bigger. When he stumbles upon one of those cheap fortune telling machines in an amusement park, he asks the machine for his wish. Problem is his wish comes true and so, come next morning, he finds himself living in the body of a full grown adult! Who looks like Tom Hanks! This movie has many great things going for it, but the best thing by far is Tom Hanks playing Josh, the 12 year old kid. Gotta hand it to Hanks, he really nailed it! I always wondered how Hanks got that 12 year old thing down so perfectly, I later learned that the young actor who plays Josh at 12 (David Moscow) acted out every scene after which Hanks copied and mimicked his performance!
Quote: “I wish I were Big”
Film: E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982)
Comments: So of course I couldn’t leave this film out of this list. It’s one of the most famous kid films of the 80’s and one of the most emotional ones, but of course, sentimentalism is to be expected from such a sensitive director as Steven Spielberg. Very few movies manage to retain a magic that spans generations, but this film has that magic, new generations keep discovering it and making it their own. I believe it will be one of those movies we never forget.
Quote: “He’s a man from outer space, and we’re taking him to his spaceship.”
Film: The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
Comments: Muppets Take Manhattan is great fun. My personal favorites are the Muppet movies in which Jim Henson himself was personally directing and if not Jim Henson, then Frank Oz who as it turns out is a decent director himself. With very few exceptions (Treasure Island and Christmas Carol) the Muppet movies in which Henson or Oz were not behind the camera simply sucked, they failed to have that Muppet magic. But Muppets Take Manhattan was one of the good ones. Directed by Frank Oz, this one has The Muppets trying to sell their musical stage show to producers in New York City. You see Kermit hopes he and his friend can one day make it big on Broadway. Of course, nobody takes them seriously…they got a Gonzo! And what the hell is a Gonzo? Still, you gotta hand it to them for not giving up on their dream! Best part about these movies is seeing all those Muppets up on screen, plus the songs (yup, it’s a musical!) are fun, “Together Again” is a pretty catchy tune indeed! Bonus, in this film the Muppet Babies make their debut in a flash back sequence.
Quote: “Me? In love with a pig? Wait till I tell the guys at marketing!”
Film: Stand by Me (1986)
Comments: Stand By Me is based on a Stephen King short story called “The Body” and it tells the story of four friends who set out to find the body of a boy who’s gone missing and is presumed dead. Along the way they get to know each other better and comfort each other, each one confronting some sort of trauma that they have to overcome. The film stars River Phoenix, Will Wheaton, Corey Feldman and Jerry O Connor as the four friends, a great cast if you ask me. Kiefer Sutherland plays the leader of a gang of older kids who want to beat them to finding the dead body. This is the kind of film that touches upon many of the insecurities and situations one faces at that age. The film takes place during the 50’s, so the entire film is filled with rock and roll tunes of the time…the soundtrack is a keeper. Stand by Me is a film that covers all sorts of emotions. It is touching, funny and truthful, it will more than likely make you think about your own childhood and going through those years. Highly recommend it.
Quote: “I don’t shut up, I grow up, and when I look at you, I throw up…ugh!”
Film: Critters (1986)
Comments: Critters is one of those horror films that you can show your little brothers or nephews if you want to get them started into the path of horror films. It’s not too scary and not to silly either, the balance between the two is just right. This film tells the story of “The Crites” a group of mischievous little creatures who have just stolen a spaceship and escaped an intergalactic prison. Problem is they are headed for earth! Now these aren’t ten foot tall alien creatures, they are these tiny little fur balls that travel by rolling through the floor, like fury bowling balls that shoot poison darts! They might look like harmless little things, but in fact they are quite ferocious and deadly! Thankfully, we have two shape shifting bounty hunters after their tail! So this is a fun little movie that plays a lot like Gremlins (1984), but with a sci-fi angle. It takes place in a farm house in small town, hillbilly county, U.S.A. and follows the adventures of kid named Brad and his drunkard friend Charlie as they try and put a stop to the Crites. This film was followed by increasingly worthless sequels, of which I think only the second might be worth your time, it was called Critters 2: The Main Course (1988).
Quote: “We’re here for the Crites”
Film: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Comments: Bill and Ted are two of many characters, who kind of defined my teenage years. This first Bill and Ted adventure is where it all began, this is where we meet the two who will bring harmony to the universe through their rock and roll! But first they need to travel through time to collect real historical figures so they can pass their history report, or they don’t go on and become saviors of the universe! Strange how I was just mentioning Critters, and now I’m talking about Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, two movies that come to us from the same director, Stephen Herek; a director who I might add had a string of successful films during the 80’s and 90’s. Herek even directed 101 Dalmatians (1996) for Disney. But anyways, even though this director fell into obscurity, Bill and Ted were my role models/heroes during my early teenage years, not because they are two complete knuckle heads, but because I admired their loyalty to each other and their friendship. They also imparted golden nuggets of wisdom like “be excellent to each other…and….party on dudes!”
Quote: “As you can see, Genghis very much enjoys Twinkies, because of the excellent sugar rush! ”
Film: Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
Comments: Adventures in Babysitting is one of those movies where everything and anything happens within the span of one single night. Mom and dad are going to some fancy party and need a baby sitter to take care of the kids while they are away, so they call upon Chris (the beautiful Elizabeth Shue) to get the job done. Chris expects another boring night of t.v. watching and some extra cash in her pocket, unfortunately her friend Brenda calls from a bus station, she is stranded and needs for Chris to pick her up! Chris thinks this will be a quick in and out operation, unfortunately, things get wildly out of hand! They even end up meeting Thor along the way if you can believe it! So anyhow, this film was directed by Chris Columbus, who would go on to become a director/producer extraordinaire, but with Adventures in Babysitting, he was just getting started. That’s right my friends, this was Chris Columbus’s directorial debut, before he hit it big with Home Alone (1990). I say, not bad for a first outing!
Quote: “Chris, I’m begging you, it’s scary here! I’ve just seen three people shoot up, a bald Chinese lady with no pants and there’s this old guy outside who wants his bedroom slippers!”
Film: Return to Oz (1985)
Comments: Out of all the Oz films, this is the darkest and most disturbed one of all. On this one Dorothy is committed to a psycho ward for talking too much about Oz. Basically, her family thinks she’s gone loony and so of they send her to receive electro shock therapy! Every Oz film has a level of darkness to it; they always go into spooky/scary territory. I mean, MGM’s The Wizard of Oz has witches, haunted forests and flying monkeys! So it should come as no surprise that Return to Oz has its own share of scary situations and premises like for example, Queen Mombi’s head collection. You see, Mombi is so crafty that she chops off the heads of beautiful girls, then keeps these heads alive by using something called “The Powder of Life”. This way she is able to switch from beautiful head to beautiful head in the same way I would change ties. This was actress Fairuza Balk’s acting debut and I must say they couldn’t have chosen anyone to play a cuter Dorothy. The special effects on this one are amazing and highly entertaining. Loved seeing a film with extensive use of well made stop motion animation. Highly recommend this underrated sequel. It may be darker at spots and more shocking than other Oz films, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie, it just makes it special.
Quote: “No Bellina, this was the yellow brick road, it leads to the Emerald City”
Film: Harry and the Hendersons (1987)
Comments: Harry and the Henderson’s tells the story of the Hendersons’s, a family who’s returning from their hunting trip in the forest. Along the road home they hit something which they mistake for an animal at first, but then quickly realize it’s not some animal; it’s not even a human being, it’s the legendary mythical creature known as Big Foot! They decide to take the unconscious creature home with them, they quickly learn that trying to secretly keep a Yeti in your home is no easy task. Pretty soon Big Foot Hunters and the police are after Harry and it’s up to The Henderson’s to return Harry to his natural habitat. First up, the makeup effects work done by Rick Baker and his team is truly excellent! The facial expressions the achieved with Harry’s face are astounding! Baker had done extensive work duplicating gorilla’s for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan Lord of the Apes (1984) (for which he won an Oscar) so I’m sure all that experience with hairy primates came in handy at the time of creating Harry. The film was directed by William Dear, a director that did a couple of films I’ve enjoyed a whole lot, like the James Bond spoof If Looks Could Kill (1991). Harry and the Hendersons also benefits from having the excellent John Lithgow play the role of the head of the Henderson family, I’ve always enjoyed his performances because he always brings great emotion to his work. A warm hearted family film.
Quote: “Have you ever seen a baby pigeon? Neither have I, but I have a hunch they exist.”
Film: D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)
Comments: D.A.R.Y.L. is an experimental cyborg made by the government in an attempt to create a super soldier for military purposes. The letters stand for Data Analyzing Robot Your Life form. One of DARYL’s creators decides that the cyborg should not be used for war. While setting DARYL free the scientist is killed, but DARYL escapes into the real world and ends up living in the home of a typical American family, The Richardsons. DARYL doesn’t remember who he is, but he soon starts displaying incredible abilities in various fields, one of which includes flying an SR-71 military plane! This film is extremely similar to Short Circuit (1986), another 80’s anti-war classic. D.A.R.Y.L. sends out an anti-military message by augmenting warmth, humanity and family values as the things that truly matter in life. The symbolisms behind the film being that young people are not mindless robots meat to be used as Cannon Fodder in war, they are real people who live and breathe and deserve to be happy both mentally and physically. The young actor who plays DARYL is Barret Oliver, who also played Bastian in The Never Ending Story (1984).
Quote: “General, a machine becomes a human when you can’t tell the difference anymore”
Film: The Quest (1986)
Comments: Also known as Frog Dreaming, this Australian film is a nostalgic curiosity of mine. I remember seeing it when I was about 10 or 11, but I haven’t seen it in more than 25 years! I do remember it starred Henry Thomas, the kid from E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982). I also remember it was about a mysterious creature that emerges from a lake and has everybody spooked. The film has a strange, sometimes surreal vibe to it; but that’s about all I remember. I wish this one was on DVD, I’d love to revisit this strange film someday. Doing a bit of research I discovered that it comes to us from Brian Trenchard Smith, the director behind BMX Bandits (1983) (another 80’s kid classic!) and Dead End Drive In (1986), the post apocalyptic film that takes place mostly inside of a drive in. Anybody out there remember seeing The Quest?
Quote: “First you dance with the devil, then you find out about Donkegin”
Film: Lucas (1986)
Comments: Wow, so Lucas was one of these films I saw at the right age, at the right time. I felt that this film had been made especially for me because I was about the same age as Lucas was in the film, so I felt immediately identified with the character. Lucas is a very touching film; again, as many films dealing with pre-teens and teens, this is a coming of age film that follows a nerdy socially inept high school student who falls for a sweet upper class girl played by Kerri Green whom most of you will remember as Amy from The Goonies (1985), I’ve always wondered why we didn’t see more of her in films. Lucas falls for Maggi, one could say he is absolutely blinded by love. Still, even though Lucas doesn’t really know how to make friends, and yeah, he’s easy to make fun of, even the bullies learn to appreciate Lucas and his bravery. The film is truthful and analizes classist differences, and questions why we like who we like, and why must humans always go for something similar to themselves? Do opposites really attract? Can a rich girl fall for a nerdy poor guy? A heart breaking scene has Maggie coldly rejecting a kiss from Lucas, wow, that scene had me in tears the first time I saw it! This film explores those firsts, sometimes embarrassing and yes, painful steps one takes when walking for the first time in the road towards love. A great movie that is not as schmaltzy as you might think, actually, it comes off as authentic depiction of high school life. Corey Haim outdoes himself in what could quite possibly be the best performance of his life. A young Charlie Sheen plays an older brother type to Lucas and even Wynona Ryder plays a smaller role as the girl who falls for Lucas, but who Lucas doesn’t even notice.
Quote: “If you’re so depressed, how come you’re eating pizza?”
FOR PART ONE OF THIS ARTICLE, CLICK HERE!