There are movies that we love as children, sometimes based on books we treasured, that reach us in a particular way. But the most special of these films also manage to do the same once we reach adulthood.
Your mileage may vary on how seriously (or not) you take Rotten Tomatoes ratings, but regardless it’s a fascinating thing to observe from time to time. Especially when one film hits the almost unheard of 100% Fresh rating, which one film in theaters currently has: Paddington 2. For a full two weeks now, the British sequel has been out and its perfect score has remained unchallenged. Certainly an indication that it hit a lot of grown-ups right in the feels… so we thought we’d take this week’s Friday Five to celebrate some other kids’ classics that make us feel the same way!
(Now, there’s no way a list of five can in any way be comprehensive for this – personally, there are probably five more I could have included – but these are personal faves. Guessing they’re faves of at least a few of you, too. 😉 )
While it may not have been as effusively, universally praised as its sequel, the 2014 live-action (and a lot of really good CGI) introduction of Michael Bond’s kind-hearted bear from “Darkest Peru” to the big screen is a total delight, with an incredible cast (Sally Hawkins! Hugh Bonneville! ev0l!Nicole Kidman! PETER CAPALDI!) and a beautiful whimsy courtesy of director Paul King. (BritTV fans: He directed all three series of The Mighty Boosh, FYI.) How great?: It immediately made me want to go back and watch the 1970’s stop-motion Paddington show that I caught glimpses of in reruns as a kid.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Admittedly, you could craft this entire list from adaptations of Roald Dahl’s books alone. I limited myself to two, and yes it’s the most well-known of his works but I’d be remiss not to admit how much Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory meant when I was little. It was one of two films where TV airings were treated like epic events, and with The Wizard of Oz at least you knew it would air like clockwork annually; Gene Wilder and the phantastmagorical, hilarious, occasionally creepy and wonderful trip through candyland was like a gift. (I also re-read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so much that the spine of my paperback fell apart.)
Charlotte’s Web (1973)
The live action/CGI version in 2006 actually wasn’t terrible, but the original animated adaptation of E.B. White’s story of a little girl’s friendship with a very special pig – and the pig’s coming of age under the tutelage of a kind and wise spider – was one of the most endearing and enlightening lessons in how to be a good person, packaged inside a super-entertaining cartoon, that you’ll ever see. Even when dealing with grief, it had the lighest touch and the most perfect sensibility to resonate with kids. Plus, if you’re going to have a no-good example of greed and avarice, you’re can’t beat a rat with the voice of Paul Lynde. Ever.
So to be fair, this one’s a bit of a cheat: Roald Dahl’s novel Matilda, among the later books of his decades-long career, wasn’t released until I was in junior high school. So it wasn’t a seminal book for me as a kid. That said, the premise of the film version – with a really exceptional turn by Mara Wilson as the lead – appealed to me so much, as I felt at the time (and still do often) like a misfit and outsider. Not only did I love the movie, but I ran out and bought the book and devoured it in an afternoon. It’s still one of my favorite Dahl books to this day. (Also, can we point out what an underrated director Danny DeVito is? Go watch The War of the Roses after this. Warning: that one is NOT a kids’ movie.)
Mary Poppins (1963)
Possibly the quintessential kids’ book adaptation (subject to disagreement, but I’ll go to the mat for this one.) There are so many life lessons, so many moments of wonder, so much joy in Walt Disney’s adaptation of PL Travers’ book series about a magical nanny that even as an adult, you find yourself discovering something new to take from it. (Side note: Saving Mr. Banks, the 2013 film with Tom Hanks as Disney and Emma Thompson as Travers – about their behind the scenes battle over the film – is incredible and worth a look.) Julie Andrews’ Oscar was so richly deserved, it’s going to be difficult on a certain level to see Emily Blunt take over in the new film coming soon, but she’s a fine choice. (And Lin-Manuel Miranda’s in it, so who are we kidding? We’re there on Day 1.)