FIVE FILMS PARENTS NEED TO SHOW THEIR KIDS (While they're still kids)
The essential classics that children need to see
THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
Based on the book by L.Frank Baum, this is one of those movies where the script has been memorized by millions of all ages over the years...
"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"
"I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too!"
Who could ever forget the Lullaby League and the Lollipop Guild welcoming Judy Garland - Dorothy - to Munchkinland? Or Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch of the West, considered along with Star Wars' Darth Vader as the greatest movie villain of all time?
More than anything else, Wizard of Oz teaches kids about how important home and family is. Here's Dorothy, whisked by a cyclone to a colorful and magical land with talking scarecrows, tin men, and cowardly lions who end up being her close friends, and her only desire is to go home to her Uncle Henry and Auntie Em in rural Kansas.
So much so that she spends all of her time trying to do just that, while at the same time trying to avoid a witch that Lord Voldemort would be interested in taking for his bride.
It all goes to show that no matter where the world takes you, there really is "no place like home".
A good lesson for youngsters to learn, don't you agree?
WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971)
Second only to that Yellow Brick Road, this is a solid number two on my list of all-time best movies for kids.
Based on Roald Dahl's book, this film not only teaches children about the underdog overcoming the odds in the form of Charlie Bucket, but also shows how NOT to behave, with fat slob Augustus Gloop (I think Harry Potter's Dudley Dursley and South Park's Eric Cartman were based on him), the gum-chewing smart mouth Violet Beauregarde, TV freak Mike TeeVee, and the ultimate mega-superbrat Veruca Salt, who still annoys me so much that I want to tell her to shut the hell up and smack her upside the head.
With kids like those, it is very easy to root for good-hearted Charlie and his Grandpa Joe. And you find yourself cheering when he ends up getting the factory from Willy, played spectacularly by Gene Wilder.
The songs were memorable as well, from "The Candy Man" to that Oompa Loompa song to the pretty "Pure Imagination".
That, the lessons given and Charlie's underdog triumph are what make this a classic.
Some people may prefer the recent remake with Johnny Depp playing Willy, saying it's truer to the original book.
But in my view there's nothing like the original.
PETER PAN (2003)
This may come as a surprise to some.
Especially considering the more well-known musical starring Mary Martin in the 1950's and Cathy Rigby in the 1990's. Not to mention Walt Disney's cartoon version from 1953. HOWEVER...
As good as Martin, Rigby, and that animated version were, there were some problems that I had with them:
Martin? She was a 40-something year old woman playing a ten-year old boy who was FAR too effeminate in her portrayal of Peter. I remember thinking that as a 6-year old watching her on TV.
Rigby? She was better than Martin in my view, much more boyish, and (unlike Mary) even had an English accent, but she was still a forty-something year old woman playing a 10-year old boy.
And the Disney version? Their portrayal of the Native Americans was SO blatantly racist and bigoted - as was the Martin version - that it seemed like they were taking a page from Birth of a Nation, only with Indians instead of African Americans. Why the different Native American tribes didn't sue the hell out of those productions is way beyond me.
As such, this live action version of that flying boy who refused to grow up is to me the best version, first and foremost because unlike the Peters in the musical, this Peter is played by an actual boy, Jeremy Sumpter.
And unlike the Wendys in those musicals, Rachel Hurd-Wood was actually a 12-year old Brit when this movie was shot, chalking up another point for realism.
Not to mention the fact that Jason Issacs' Captain Hook was truly sinister, not buffoonish like in the musical or the cartoon.
Plus it showed a young first-love angle between Wendy and Peter that I liked; the kiss that she gave him near the end of the film was the best first kiss I've ever seen on the big screen. The dilemma that Wendy faced in deciding whether to grow up or not was well played, too.
In other words, this most recent adaptation of the Sir James M. Barrie classic was more realistic and true to the original play and book.
That's why if I was a parent, I would show this version before I showed the others.
For all those moms and dads out there who disagree with me on this, let me suggest that you show your kids this Peter Pan along with the musical and the cartoon, and let them be the judge.
YELLOW SUBMARINE (1968)
I recall fondly when I was a five-year old seeing this cartoon on TV with my mom.
It turned out to be the ideal introduction to the greatest musical act of all time - the Beatles.
If you, as a parent, want to expose and teach your children about those four great men from Liverpool, you need to start by showing them this film.
Based on a song from the 1966 Revolver album, this animated feature showed the Fab Four going in a Yellow Submarine to a fantasy-type place called Pepperland to face the evil Blue Meanies, eventually driving them out with music.
Although that was the gist of the plot, it was the songs such as the title track, "All Together Now", and "All You Need Is Love", as well as the message of love conquering hate that makes this worthwhile for kids to see, along with the colorful and psychedelic animation.
And we even get to see John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr in a little snippet at the end.
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (1965)
Even though this isn't a feature-length movie, it's still in my book the best cartoon ever made and an essential this for parents to show their offspring.
Christmas would not be Christmas without a viewing of this half-hour TV classic, which won several Emmys when it first shown in 1965. I'm certain I speak for millions when I say that.
This special teaches good lessons about what that holiday is really about; the scene where Linus recites from the Gospel of St. Luke is thought to be the first time that the Bible was quoted in mainstream animation. It shows youngsters that Christmas isn't about merely getting gifts, but about having peace on Earth and being kind to one another.
And let's not forget Vince Guaraldi's legendary soundtrack, his 3-piece jazz combo fitting the show perfectly. One of those songs, "Linus and Lucy", became the quintessential Peanuts theme.
This production holds such a special place in my heart, I personally make it a point to put in and watch my video copy of it every Christmas Eve night, as well as play my CD of the soundtrack. And I'm in my forties.
Considering it's a cartoon about kids and Christmas plays and pathetic little trees, that is saying something.
Well, there's my list of the films that kids need to see while they're kids.
Though I readily admit that this list is my opinion, I feel that there are many people out there who would agree and concur with what's on it.
I'm also sure that many moms and dads would disagree, too - that quite OK.
But people must admit that these are true classics, whether or not they think it's essential for kids to see.
That is all I am saying.