Phil: The theatre I work at has a cinema and this week we’ve being showing a film to amuse children on half term holidays. Thanks to this, I’ve had the “opportunity” to see the Smurfs movie.
Anyway, I was feeling a bit blue but one scene did set me thinking. The (human) male lead has sent off an e-mail to his tyrant of a boss. Papa Smurf is looking through his star-gazer (telescope, he’s not trying to peer through Patrick Moore) to work out when the stars will align, he and his family can go home and I can get out of a room full of children. They are tense and so the lead decides, with a product placement that arrives with a thud, that they should play Guitar Hero.
Cue lots of gurning and flailing on a plastic guitar. Plenty of shots that when shown in 3D will have the audience vomiting up the popcorn (we showed the 2D version thankfully) and the Smurfs singing along to the song. Which is Run DMC and Aerosmith performing “Walk This Way“.
Now this is a film for kids. It’s not that bad for grown-ups but you really need to be around 4 to 8 years old to get the best from it. Which makes things interesting when the little darlings look up the song in the web and find the lyrics.
“Mummy. What’s a backseat lover ?”
“Errr. Someone who likes to sit in the back of the car while Daddy and Mummy drive ?”
“Daddy. What’s a classy kind of sassy mean ?”
“Classy kind of sassy ? I thought they said classy kind of chassis. It means, errr, someone who very nice, errr, shoes.”
“Muuuummmmy. What do they mean by ’til you’re down on her muffin ?”
“Oh ! I’m sure it’s something to do with not being very good at baking. Now isn’t it time for cebbie’s or something. You go and watch television while Daddy and I have a chat about the films he takes you to see.”
Now I know the trend is for kids films that have an extra layer for the parents to enjoy and also that when you are a kid you miss a lot of the double entendres that make adults wince, but I wonder how you work out where the line can be drawn. More to the point, is it really what the audience wants ? Roal Dahl seemed to have it pegged – children aren’t tiny little adults but individuals who think differently. Give them cruelty and scary stuff and they are happy. Grown-ups don’t get it in the same way. On the other hand, they are paying the money to go in or read the book so perhaps Dahl is out of date and bright colours, loads of action and product placement is what you need to supply.
I don’t get it. Can someone who understands writing for kids enlighten me ?