A Family Comedy Shouldn’t Just Be For Kids
by Jake Kroeger on November 16, 2011
While there are people out there in the world that are admitting they saw Jack and Jill because they were in an inexplicable state of delusion in which they just needed to feel something (even if that ‘something’ ends up being sick), a week ago, I was dragged by family to the full-length animated feature Puss In Boots. The sketch of a conference call about a family film with a vaginal reference in the title that I thought of notwithstanding, I did not enjoy Puss In Boots at all.
Overly predictable, full of glaring holes in the fantasy world that was set up, and, I’ll just go ahead and say it, gratuitous in its dancing, the film is a pitch perfect example of what’s wrong with family entertainment. Before you go ahead and say I’m dead inside and I lack any childlike wonder, let me say this: I probably am. Last week alone, I was called a hardcore cynic by at least 4 different people that are close to me. In my defense, I’m not as bad as I used to be in watching Criterions for the sake of watching Criterions.
Debating the fate of my inner child, however, is not the motivation for writing this post. The fact remains that Puss In Boots was a movie conceived, written, produced, and distributed for kids and the families that they will inevitably drag along with them. Worse than that, it is riding the coattails of the Shrek franchise rather than it being some appealing creation on its own. As oversimplified (or cold-hearted to some of you) as it may sound, there aren’t many reasons for the existence of Puss In Boots beyond entertaining the simple minds of impressionable, easily entertained children.
Yes, the movie business is indeed a business, and it’s understandable that a movie studio in said business would opt to tap a lucrative market that involves bringing in all four quadrants (an industry term meaning young, old, male, female). With that being said, wouldn’t it be advantageous for family films to actually appeal the entire family instead of just the kids and their begrudging parents that would love their kids to be quiet and be entertained for a few hours?
Nearly any Pixar movie is a perfect example of the success that is rightfully awarded to films that pay attention to the sensibilities of the entire family. There is plenty of bright, well-animated action, but there is also an incredibly well written story, deeply realized characters, and jokes that appeal to those who most likely paid the price of admission. Toy Story, Cars, Monsters Inc., Up, Toy Story 3, and the rest are all proof that there is more to be gained when the whole family likes the movie. Up was so touching that it Hannibal Buress makes fun of how grown people cry during it.
Why isn’t the model followed across the board? Looney Tunes, for all their nods to the political discourses of their time still hold up. I bought the first season of Dexter’s Laboratory when it came out on DVD, a cartoon series that has one episode parodying Apocalpyse Now (as does Animaniacs, by the way). The wildly successful Phineas and Ferb that, just from watching an out of context clip, makes someone whose dead inside like me laugh out loud, recently got renewed for two seasons by the Disney Channel.
It just makes good sense that a family comedy would make every member of the family laugh rather than the ones that can’t buy movie tickets or DVD on their own. On that note, I’ll go back to telling those pesky kids to keep it down by banging a broom on my ceiling.