Newest Reviews
Night Raiders
Samourai, Le
Advent Calendar, The
Merchant of Four Seasons, The
Love of Jeanne Ney, The
Blonde. Purple
Dirty Ho
Dying to Divorce
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
Trouble with Being Born, The
Last Matinee, The
Strings, The
Free Hand for a Tough Cop
People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan
Dear Future Children
Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus
Thin Red Line, The
Petite Maman
Fast & Furious 9
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat
Sweet Thing
Father, The
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Night House, The
Father of Flies
80,000 Years Old
Dead & Beautiful
Whisker Away, A
Wild Indian
Whale Island
Newest Articles
Keeping the Beatles Alive: Get Back
The Punk Rock Movie: Out of the Blue on Blu-ray
Yeah, Too Quiet: The Great Silence on Blu-ray
Vestron Double Bill: Dementia 13 and The Wraith
Farewell Dean Stockwell: His Years of Weirdness
Kung Fu Craft: Cinematic Vengeance! on Blu-ray
999 Letsbe Avenue: Gideon's Way on Blu-ray
Hungary for Cartoons: Hungarian Animations on MUBI
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD

Not In Front of the Children: Inappropriate Kids Movies

  The industry supplying children's entertainment has gone from strength to strength, to the extent that many of the top earners year on year are aimed at family audiences. Which means megabucks for producers seeking to cash in, and not everyone is as scrupulous as the likes of Pixar in crafting classics in the field, even among the supposedly respectable studios there are the equivalents of fly-by-nights who will put any old rubbish on the screen because kids have no taste. Not to say a child won't let you know if it's not enjoying a movie, but you can get away with a lot in the style, and perhaps the first big cash-in was Babes in Toyland, ostensibly a Laurel and Hardy vehicle from 1934 which sought to make a profit on the previous year's Alice in Wonderland (a strange film in itself) by casting its star, Charlotte Henry, as Bo-Peep.

You know, she lost her sheep? Well, she loses them here too, and that's not all she’s in danger of losing when the evil Silas Barnaby sets his heart on marrying her. Now, it's easy to judge the past by the standards of the present and find it lacking, but Barnaby (played by Henry Brandon) was demonstrably much older than Bo-Peep, who here was a child - Charlotte was nineteen-years old when she took the role but looked a lot younger. So for a start, there's an unpleasantness to the old fairy tale trope of the big bad villain planning to kidnap the heroine, but you could overlook that as cartoonish and suitably over the top. What was not easy to overlook were the unsettling masks and shrill to the point of hysteria sequences - and that was just the singing, for this was one of Stan and Ollie's forays into operetta.

An experiment that has not aged well, though the songs trilled and crooned are not too offensive, despite holding up the plot as they do. But Hal Roach, who produced this, had evidently done a deal with Disney for use of his Three Little Pigs cartoon - represented by little people in costumes - and Mickey Mouse - nightmarishly, a chimpanzee in a costume that hurtles straight into the uncanny valley and never emerges. Seeing it scurry around is decidedly queasy, kind of like knowing Boxy the robot dog on the original Battlestar Galactica television series was pulling the same trick, as you cannot look at them without being concerned. Add to that a plot where Barnaby pretends Tom-Tom the Piper's son has turned a Little Pig into sausages which Stan and Ollie test to see if it's true (they were prepared to eat their pal!) plus an invasion of lumpy-faced bogeymen, and despite its Christmas rotation on American TV, this hadn't endured too well unless you were a diehard fan.

Fairy tales, or tales involving magic anyway, would feature in many a youngling's nightmares and the Brothers Grimm were responsible for a lot of that, far past their initial impact on the cultural scene when they collected as many folk stories as they could. But their biggest influence for British children's restless sleeps was not necessarily Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, though a little person did feature, it was the East German adaptation of The Singing Ringing Tree, which was part of a number of such filmed fables from their Communist bloc studios. These were designed for matinee showings to divert the kids and serve up a moral lesson, but they were exported, not merely to other countries behind the Iron Curtain, to nations further afield as well, and the United Kingdom was the recipient of this.

It arrived in the mid-sixties on BBC television, part of the cheap and cheerful practice of importing foreign films and programmes and giving them an even cheaper English dub: anything from Three Wishes for Cinderella, Secret of Steel City and Goldenhair to Oskar, Kino and the Laser and the most popular, Monkey, made it to these shores and were broadcast to either captivate or baffle the junior audience. Yet there were scary parts in some of these as well, either intentionally, or because of the sheer alien quality of watching a project intended for non-British children, and nowhere was that more in evidence than The Singing Ringing Tree, whose eerie atmosphere was not deliberate, it was a byproduct of a story its producers believed was being related in an entirely reasonable manner. The result? At least two unnerved generations.

That story was simple enough: spoilt Princess (Christabel Bodenstein) demands the tree of the title from the Prince (Eckart Dux) to prove he is worthy of her. He searches and finds a little man (Richard Kruger) in a magic kingdom who conjures up the shrub, and tells the Prince if the Princess loves him, the tree will sing and ring, and he says, if it doesn't, I'll turn into a bear. Famous last words, as the rest of the film (split into three parts by the BBC) details his kidnapping of the cruel Princess and basically rehabilitating her. But there was more, there was that dwarf cackling from various parts of the elaborate, colour-saturated sets, there was a huge fish that gets trapped in ice, there was a wall of thorns that sprouts up, and so on, adding weirdness to weirdness in a manner that struck the viewers of the right age in the sixties and seventies as the most bizarre thing they had ever seen, unable to process it as a charming yarn, therefore regarding it as a horror.

To the seventies, when retrospectively the twenty-first century tells us just how terribly wrong they got everything back then, but in some cases this reaction must have been the right one even in those days. Take the Brazilian Journey to an Unknown World from 1971, which looks like a cross between a mondo movie and a family item, which gets off on the wrong foot by telling us of jolly Tio Maneco (played by the writer-director Flávio Migliaccio), uncle of three boys who has a habit of taking them on holiday with him. This always results in the kids placed in mortal danger, be that on a raft in the middle of the ocean or in a hot air balloon that gets perilously entangled on a metal tower, and the boys' parents are understandably keen that they do not accompany their relative this year. However, they are under the impression he is "fun".

Therefore they really want to go with him this time, and after Maneco tells their irate father how to win at the stock market in a nonsensical bit of business, he agrees to let them take the trip, which starts with him flying a light aircraft between buildings as if he were a joyrider. Suspicions that he may not be as responsible as you would prefer are confirmed when his suggestion they head off into the Brazilian jungle result in them all nearly tumbling over a waterfall, then to add to the hardship his vaguely articulated reasons for being there - looking for his father, and a precious flower - see him being separated from the three children, who are left to fend for themselves. Not surprisingly, one of the children starts to die (!), but that was not all that made you wonder if you were watching the inspiration for Cannibal Holocaust and its Italian trash ilk.

For instance, the nephews happen upon a snake, which they shoot with a rifle to eat: cue the image of said snake getting its head blown off in unforgiving closeup. Then there was other wrongness such as a scene where all three juvenile actors were seen completely naked, supposedly because they were drying their clothes, but not something you wanted to witness, even in a film aimed at adults, which this was not. Further animal abuse came when the reunited Maneco and his charges stabbed a jaguar through the eye and proceeded to devour it in bloody handfuls of meat, apparently justice because it wanted to eat them. More wacky elements included two animated space aliens in a non-cartoon flying saucer, which escort everyone to their planet to overthrow robot overlords in a couple of minutes flat, a tribe of Indians who wear very little, and a man in a robot suit that made the one from Lost in Space look mobile. But it was the misjudgement you would remember.

Yet it wasn't merely low budget South American efforts that severely mistook exploitation for entertainment, as Hollywood had its moments as well. Not so much in the Disney movies, but this was the decade that served up the swearing, racist kids of The Bad New Bears in 1976, not a movie you see on television anymore, not uncut anyway. However, that was not the most confounding of choices for a family amusement in that decade, as that same year the director of Death Wish tried his hand at one, and Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood was its name. A more apt name would have been The Dog Who Savaged Hollywood, given the number of times the titular mutt attacked someone, but the story was, in essence, a fictionalisation of the rise to fame of the pre-Lassie canine star Rin Tin Tin, only told as a supposed comedy.

Michael Winner, for it was he, was at the helm, and though he did not write the script, his trademark bad taste was all over this, not simply in now violent the unintentionally worrying pooch was (in one scene he draws blood from The Honeymooners star Art Carney). To give some idea of its misguided nature, it began with Madeline Kahn arriving in Tinseltown of the twenties and immediately falling on hard times in her search for stardom, leading her to fight Won Ton Ton, who has escaped a dog pound by attacking the guards (see a pattern here?), for a roast chicken that has dropped from the back of a van and landed in the street. Nor much charming about that, but when her contact in a studio turns out to be a stage hand who attempts to rape her (what?), the heroic canine leaps in and, you guessed it, attacks him, as he does with anyone who now gets close to her.

Despite the demeanour of a ravening beast who needed to be humanely destroyed, Won Ton Ton is adopted by Kahn and her new boyfriend, aspiring writer-director Bruce Dern (that well-known family entertainer) and soon has become a star of his own films, speciality holding sticks of dynamite in his mouth (actual explosive, that goes off in Winner's lust for destruction-as-comedy) and jumping through brick walls. Those walls are props, but one scene has him trying on a real one, which seems to have been achieved by throwing the Alsatian at the wall and filming its impact. Then there was Ron Liebman as a cross-dressing Rudolph Valentino type who sees his career end not because suspicions are aroused when he keeps getting gay slurs aimed at him, but when he stars in a "Custer survived!" Western. All that's without mentioning the parade of ageing movie stars Winner recruited for humiliating bit parts - no wonder the dog tries to commit suicide at the end.

The antagonist of Jacob Two Two meets the Hooded Fang, featured in a 1978 Canadian low budgeter, may have sounded like a dog, but he was in fact a wrestler little Jacob sees on the television who freaks him out thanks to his fearsome (and, yes, fanged) appearance. This was drawn, some say overdrawn, from the book by Mordecai Richler, also Canadian, and proof America did not have the monopoly on shabby-looking seventies efforts aimed at kids - Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny must have been quaking in their shoes when they got wind of this one. Certainly, for a generation who either caught this in a theatrical showing, or more likely on television or video cassette, they were suitably unnerved by what amounted to a simple fable about tackling your fears but may have generated them instead.

The plot was the basic The Wizard of Oz premise, where Jacob goes to sleep after a traumatic time and imagines himself in a skewed version of the world, and all thanks to a misunderstanding in a local grocer's. He was asked by his father to go and fetch two quarts of ice cream, but thanks to his habit of saying things twice - much like Jimmy Two Times in Goodfellas, which you would like to think was heavily influenced by a Canucksploitation quickie - Jacob has the mickey taken out of him by the shopkeeper and the nearby policeman, yet being a six-year-old his sense of humour is not sufficiently developed so he runs out and seeks shelter by hiding in a pile of leaves. It is there he falls asleep, and envisages being taken to court and then on to a special prison devoted to children run by said Hooded Fang and his grotesque cohorts.

This was where the nightmares crept in, as for instance two of the gaolers were Mr Fish and Miss Fowl, two cheaply made up yet uneasily odd creations, he being akin to the Tin Man only in piscine form (all silver, basically) and she like Canadian sketch comedy The Kids in the Hall's Chicken Lady, only for kids, and not any more palatable for pleasant dreams. At one point they summon slime to attack one of the inmates, who are patently extras under green, plastic sheeting, but the concept, and its DIY realisation, were enough to get seventies and eighties junior viewers highly disturbed by what was unfolding. Not least because the film, directed by Theodore J. Flicker of sixties gonzo conspiracist comedy The President's Analyst fame, had a similarly goofy but sinister style, always a combination that left you unsure of how to react. That this employed a child labour theme suggested someone was messing with infant minds.

Also in 1978, but across the Atlantic, the Brits were making a cartoon, and despite this being the decade that Ralph Bakshi had been making his mark in animation, cartoons were widely regarded as kids' stuff, certainly in the West. Watership Down was directed by American producer Martin Rosen who guided this adaptation of Richard Adams' celebrated novel about rabbits to the screen; while the source was not a book for children, there's something about creating a bunch of bunnies as your protagonists that immediately makes many parents believe it will be fine for their offspring to watch, yet that was not the case. There's certainly an appeal for older children who could take the violence vital to the plot, but time and again families find this seventies toon is simply too much for their younger members to watch, and tears and nightmares result.

When I was in school, the tears were the main concern, for it was judged to be a film that was so sad it was guaranteed to make you cry, not something every bluffing, blustery kid would want to hear, though in Britain it was a major success at the box office. For that reason, its classic status both as book and film, it was often revived on television, which meant that every time it was, the television station broadcasting it would receive a barrage of complaints for anguished parents whose little darlings had been reduced to wrecks by watching cute, fluffy bunnies getting their throats ripped out. There was no blood in a Disney cartoon, after all, but this British variation on the talking pictures of animals genre was purposefully not a Disney effort, consciously distancing itself from that technique by using muted, earth colours for its palette.

A cast of respected British thesps such as John Hurt, Richard Briers and Harry Andrews (plus Broadway legend Zero Mostel as a seagull) mixed with a frankness about the wild, and how nature red in tooth and claw was the existence for every animal that lived in the countryside. The story had a group of rabbits break away from their warren when Fiver, a kind of seer, suffers a vision of their home running with a torrent of blood, only to find their destination is not as idyllic as they would want when they are left with no does. But there is a warren nearby that is overcrowded... and ruled over by the tyrannical General Woundwort, who sees to it that any who disobey him are scarred to identify them. Adams' book was faithfully rendered, but there was a reason Stephen King included it in his list of best horror novels in his Danse Macabre collection, as for all its sentimentality (Art Garfunkel singing Bright Eyes prominent there), Watership Down could be unapologetically grim.

The eighties brought its share of movies that children would find disquieting despite being aimed at their target audience, from The Last Unicorn to Return to Oz to The Adventures of Mark Twain, but one such example seems far less likely to be revived largely in retrospect: Moonwalker. This was the self-styled King of Pop's eighties vanity movie, hot of the success of his Bad album, basically a series of pop videos, some longer than others, that promoted some of its songs, a couple of other performances, and some narrative linking. Alarm bells started ringing during the opening segment where he sang Man in the Mirror to acres of hysterical fans, intercut with images of the likes of Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, John F. Kennedy and other do-gooders Jackson evidently wished to align himself with. Was his ego really that arrogant?

This continued in a section where we got a look at how he saw his fans, being chased around a movie studio and then out on the road at high speeds by caricatured aficionados who were nothing less than monstrous. In fact, there was a lot of Michael being chased here... almost as if he had done something wrong. Was it some admittance of guilt that the main setpiece was built around his song Smooth Criminal? You would have to be pretty smooth to get away with crimes such as the molestation of children, wouldn't you? Which is precisely what many accusers said he had done, and when more allegations arose, apart from the ones he had bought off in the nineties and the ones that he had been found innocent of in a court case after that, the horrendous damage he had done to his face was matching his growing legacy as an utter creep.

His wish to be identified with children might have raised a few eyebrows in the eighties, but looking back at Moonwalker's restaging of his Martin Scorsese-directed Bad video with a little boy playing Jackson, the effect was more unsettling than cute - far more. In the main section that takes up the second half, the singer acted out a story contrived by himself to act as a messianic figure who saves three children (including John Lennon's son) from Joe Pesci, who played a Bond villain type planning to give drugs to kids, his urging to get them hooked while they're young certainly sounding like something Jackson would say. That this featured him as effectively a Transformer, turning into a car, a robot and a spaceship, was yet more infantilization of his image, uncomfortably coupled with his raunchy dance moves stolen from Bob Fosse in one of his favourite films, The Little Prince, presumably because he regarded himself as the magic boy title character. His hubris was something.

The nineties was when irony ruled the day, but there was little ironic in a fantasy like 1998's Secret of the Andes. Yes, we were back in South America for more dodgy fare, in this instance showcasing the talent of twelve-year-old Camilla Belle, the laughing-eyed starlet and social activist who for a while seemed about to be the next big thing - not thanks to work such as this, however. She played a naughty little girl whose idea of fun is sticking her chewing gum into other little girls' hair or telling her psychiatrist (and understandably befuddled Jerry Stiller) that she dreams of seeing him naked and on all fours. Kids' movie, remember. Obviously something has to be done, at least the adults realise that much, so it's either take the shrink's advice and place her in a special school for the troubled, or whisk her away to the aforementioned Andes.

There is a reason for choosing that location, they weren't going to dump her there to fend for herself, as her mother (Nancy Allen) contacts her absent father (David Keith) who is an archaeologist on a dig there, hoping to find the other half of an ancient golden disc which may hold incredible power. You're thinking Indiana Jones, now, right? And when John Rhys-Davies appeared, that supposition was reinforced, though he appears to be of dubious moral character: he informs Camilla that if she steps out of line he will "pull out your baby teeth with red hot pliers!", and then she begins to believe he has murdered somebody after witnessing him burying a body in the village grounds. As you have gathered, the, shall we say, uncertain tone director Alejandro Azzano conjured up did little to endear his would-be epic to the viewer.

Not helping was that plotwise, the script looked to have been translated from Spanish to English and back a few times, thus diluting and confounding any attempt to make sense of what exactly was going on. One minute you were watching a chicken sacrificed for its blood in a ritual, the next Camilla could see statues change their expression, apparently because she was harnessing some vaguely explained (if at all) ability of the paranormal, which had the presumably unintentional effect of making it come across as if the little girl was tripping off her face on whatever psychotropic drugs there were to hand in the Andes. They didn't even do the “at the end of your sleevies!" joke. By the conclusion, the other half of the disc is located, though an evil cult have done their darnedest to prevent Camilla and her new friends from securing it, and after one antagonist is stretched to death (that's right, nineties, we have your crappy CGI pegged) this ends in a shrug.

Some films earn their bad status by dint of the fact they star a megastar in an embarrassing role before they became famous, which is likely why 1999's My Brother the Pig is so poorly rated, not that it did itself many favours otherwise. Scarlett Johansson, for it was she, was our leading lady, at a time when she was just starting out on her career and stuck in juvenile roles she graduated from surprisingly quickly, but it's unlikely she looks back on this excursion with any fondness, not least because of her religion and the way she had to share the screen with a decidedly non-kosher animal. The plot was simplicity itself: a producer and director of low budget efforts saw the profits that blockbusting children's hit Babe had generated and decided he wanted some of that sweet porcine cash, so devised his own excuse to feature the swine.

Well, that's more what you imagine went on behind the scenes than the actual plot, but it was no less absurd. Scarlett was a thirteen-year-old continually pestered by her little brother, who opens the film by tying a mouse around her pyjama bottoms as she sleeps, which leads to the uncomfortable punchline of her running, screaming from her bedroom and her father (Judge Reinhold) whipping off the garment, leaving her half-naked (thankfully, this part was left unshown). Because of this humiliation, and a later bit of bad behaviour when he trashes the kitchen with his best friend (child star also-ran Alex D. Linz), Scarlett goads him into entering the room of their nanny (Eva Mendes, also pre-fame). The consequence of this is since the nanny is from Mexico, she also knows some sort of Latina voodoo, and her artefacts turn the boy into a piglet.

Much of this took place in a Mexico straight out of a sixties sitcom, with no opportunity wasted to play La Cucaracha or The Mexican Hat Dance - you would be surprised they didn't all sport sombreros. Once in the village of the Mendes' grandmother, who knows how to turn the pig back into the brother, the characters split up, though not before said pig spies on the nanny in the shower for maximum dubiousness (again, we don't see much, but the concept is displeasing). Scarlett makes friends with two local sisters for dressing up and makeup fun (sample scene: she notices a framed photo and asks "Who’s this hottie?" to be told that's their brother, and he's dead. Life and soul of the party, there). However, the little hog gets kidnapped by a butcher, leading to this film’s idea of comedy: Scarlett chased with a meatcleaver. Add in a description of how to deal with piles from a helpful taxi driver, and you had a movie trying too hard and not hard enough.

Onto the twenty-first century, which saw the trend for children's entertainment to have material aimed at the grown-ups in the audience truly take over. As if the productions thought they could expand their appreciation among the widest numbers of viewers possible, the notion reached its apex as Pixar crafted hit after hit, appealing to a varied demographic and reaping those financial rewards. But not everything quite got the hang of this technique; now, Ron Howard's How the Grinch Stole Christmas had been a real success at the seasonal bonanza in 1999, despite being horrendous, but it was made at a time when star Jim Carrey could do very little wrong at the box office, no matter that it had little to do but bloat up Dr Seuss's original children's book with extraneous business. However, a sequel was not forthcoming.

What to do? Well, the author had penned many books that were classics among generations who had learned to love reading with them, and one of them, second only to his Grinch tale for renown, was The Cat in the Hat. Repeat the formula, thought the studio (or studios plural in this case), and once again dupe, sorry, win over the great unwashed, therefore another Canadian comic who could do very little wrong was recruited: Mike Myers. But there was a problem, for one thing Myers hated the concept and was not shy of letting everyone on the set know he was merely there for contractual reasons, hence in almost every shot he was in, he stood alone as special effects mayhem reined around him. Listen to this Cat in the Hat spend just over an hour (this was one short movie) laugh at his own jokes, in increasing desperation as he knew they weren't funny.

It ain't pretty, and the makeup he was required to wear was more nightmarish than novel, as if the two kids whose house he invaded were being quipped at by a black and white werewolf. But what made audiences really take against it was embarrassment: they weren't embarrassed for the cast, they were embarrassed at having to answer uncomfortable questions when their offspring asked them about the jokes aimed at adults that spread like a rash across the screenplay, the writers under the impression they were aiming their material at the parents in the belief those gags would go over the heads of their sons and daughters. But what happened was, those kids simply squirmed, or inquired about the jokes about cat neutering, why Paris Hilton (famous for a sex tape) was in this, and what S.H.I.T. spelled. That this was set in a day-glo nightmare thanks to its direction by a production designer was equally unsteady on its feet, like many of these films, looking coke-fuelled.

As a child star, you have the potential to make a friend for life of at least somebody in the audience, someone around the age you make the movie, that is, and for the button-nosed Fanning sisters, Dakota and Elle, they both had their opportunities to do that very thing. However, Dakota was in The Cat in the Hat, and Elle was in The Nutcracker: The Untold Story, also known as The Nutcracker in 3D (having shown up around the start of the gimmick's return this century). The year after she would gain many plaudits for her sterling work in J.J. Abrams' Super 8, but the year before she was the heroine of a reimagining of the E.T.A Hoffman revered yarn, as adapted to a ballet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky with some of the most memorable classical music ever written. But this Nutcracker was not a ballet, though it was a musical, after a fashion.

Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky had this dream project of adapting a fresh variation on the story, using the ballet as a soundtrack, ever since the nineteen-sixties when it was intended to be helmed as a East-West co-production by the respected Anthony Asquith. When he passed away, the project fell away, until Konchalovsky opted to revive it and took another long while for it to finally see the light of day in 2010, to almost universal opprobrium. What went wrong? Was this not a cast iron Christmas tale certain to enchant the world's little girls, if nobody else? Well, and this was a major misstep, while he set this in the early years of the twentieth century, he chose to make it an allegory of World War II and went further when he crafted clear connections to the horrors of the Holocaust in both his theme and his imagery.

Therefore this Nutcracker started off with a sprinkling of fairy dust on Christmas Eve as Elle and her brattish brother were diverted by their kindly uncle Nathan Lane (apparently intended to be Albert Einstein for motives unexplained), then in The Wizard of Oz style she fell asleep and began to dream of the titular object, given as a gift, as a living creature to climb the tree in the living room with and meet a lovely fairy queen in the process. But the sparkle was abruptly flushed into the sewer when the city's rats turned humanoid, donned Nazi uniforms, and began sending toys to the ovens in a wholly misguided allusion to the mass execution of the Jews in the forties - it was one of the most bafflingly wrong-headed decisions in the whole of family entertainment. That this was accompanied by Tchaikovsky's tunes offered banal lyrics (by Tim Rice) and arrangement into pop songs was merely another aspect of an obviously expensive, but unpleasantly framed bauble.

Something that definitely didn't look expensive, but was unpleasant and featured Nazis too, was Foodfight, a misbegotten enterprise from 2012. There is a story behind this one, in that it was originally set for release in 2002, but before it was completed "somebody" stole the hard drives containing the animation, which left the hapless animators scrabbling around to try and recreate it. To do so they used motion capture over which the placed their original designs, with results that looked like it had been made on a Playstation off the nineties, as many were wont to point out. This was so dreadful that despite an unbelievable sixty-five million dollars being spent on it, it resembled a YouTube cartoon, which was where, not coincidentally, you could watch the original trailer to see that its animation was... almost as bad as what we were offered.

Horror stories emerged from the animators about precisely how clueless the director was (he reputedly wanted to compete with Pixar - good luck with that), and despite a fairly starry voice cast, led by Charlie Sheen as the canine hero (recorded before his decidedly non-family friendly antics came to light), Foodfight was as hard to listen to as it was to watch. One of the ugliest cartoons ever to escape onto the market, it was set in a supermarket after dark, much as Sausage Party was, where the products come to life, and incredibly, this was almost as sexually-themed and innuendo-laden as the Seth Rogen adult toon had been. Sheen's character, Dex Dogtective (is that supposed to be a pun?) loses his girlfriend (some kind of kitten werewolf lady) and is nearly seduced by Brand X (Eva Longoria), whose forces have been massed to take over the supermarket.

This was where the Nazis came in, for the director wanted to base his endeavours on the Hollywood classic Casablanca for reasons best known to himself (saves coming up with an original idea, one supposed), though in effect only a few allusions were made - but the Third Reich of grocery products remained prominent. Thankfully, unlike The Nutcracker in 3D, the references did not go too deep into the global misery, but it did end up in a mass brawl of the title, basically poorly-conceived splurges of food hitting the jerkily-moving characters. These were intended to be based on real product mascots until the manufacturers got wind of the disaster this was turning into and withdrew permission, which had the alternate effect of rendering it even more pointless. Abounding with jokey dialogue that barely counted as humour, and certainly wasn't clever, and if nothing else had you respecting anyone who gets family entertainment right. It's not as easy as it looks - and we didn't even mention The Garbage Pail Kids Movie... be thankful for small mercies.

[Thanks to Andrew Pragasam for suggestions.]
Author: Graeme Clark.


< Back to Article list

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt


Last Updated: 31 March, 2018