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Cinema through young eyes

Si Walker, 19th January 2015

People watching a film in the cinema

This Christmas I took the two older children (5 and 4 yrs) for their first cinema experience to see Paddington. Overall it was a very good time and I had forgotten how loud children laugh in the cinema. Paddington falls out of a tree collecting oranges and the whole place nearly explodes. Oh to be five years old again!

The film Paddington (certificate PG) is really funny I have to say. The plot line is quite developed and there are lots of little cameo performances by well known actors such as Matt Lucas. There are all kinds of scenes from the books that kids and parents alike will recognise and enjoy.

'Oh to be five years old again!'

I think the cinema experience was a lot more fun than my two realised it would be.

But the trailers also meant it was a lot scarier. Before the film a clip was shown for Into The Woods, which is apparently a PG as well.

You can see the trailer here, or read the summary just below:

'the trailers also meant it was a lot scarier'

Summary: 'Into the Woods is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales in a musical format that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel-all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them.'

'I can only assume that this is because children are so awash with media'

The trailer (which is admittedly all we saw) borrowed a lot of the high tension and sinister suggestion of a film pitched at older audiences. As it began I found myself as a parent feeling extremely uneasy. I'm not harking back to the 'good old days', but stories aimed at children have certainly got a lot darker. I can only assume that this is because children are so awash with media, that to get the same effect, the film makers need to heighten the laughs, but also heighten the shocks.

'The problem is, that cinema aimed at kids has both brilliant possibilities and harmful ones, owing to new technologies and plot development'

It may be a thin end of the wedge argument, but where do we end with the need to shock? If this is what is happening, are we happy children in society are getting so desensitised? When Jesus says we should be 'like little children' (Matthew 18:3) it is because he recognises there is (or should be) something that is distinct about the young emotions of children. But that same beauty he sees, needs to be protected.

Geoffrey McNab writes for the Independent: 'At times, Into the Woods, which is made by Disney, appears to be a movie aimed at kids. Then its tone darkens and it takes on a considerably more sinister aspect.'

I know the matter of how scary a film is, is quite subjective. But it feels less subjective when you are sat there with a child who thought they were coming for Paddington and end up with Disney horror.

'I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater'

So here is the nub of this post. The problem is, that cinema aimed at kids has both brilliant possibilities and harmful ones, owing to new technologies and plot development. We can animate a little bear, so that a child of five can ask ('how did they teach him to speak?'- Yes, cute I know.) But we can also scare the life out of them if we don't set proper limits.

I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater- kid's cinema can be brilliant- but I do think we need to hold the industry to account and protect our kids by checking exactly what will be coming up on the screen.