More Great Forgotten Kids Films

Last year I made out a list of "five great forgotten kids films of the 80s and 90s," promising to do more eventually. Well, I finally got inspired to do another five. It's all very subjective, of course. We see so many films as kids; some we  are embarrassed to admit liking once (Casper!), some we are proud to love even now (Goonies!), some we didn't even like as kids (Richie Rich!), some we only saw parts of (My Girl!), some we saw too many times to like (Beethoven!), and some we may have seen once but the memory is too foggy (The Brave Little Toaster?). Then there's all the ones I haven't seen (Goofy Movie, for instance), which don't end up on my lists.

Most of the films we see as kids end up getting buried whether they were good or should remain buried, but because I like to focus on the positive, here's five more hidden gem kids films from the 80s and 90s that every kid should see. We remember them of course, so it's our duty to keep them alive.

Free Willy - Deride if you must (obvious jokes aside!), but you know you get goosebumps whenever MJ's "Will You Be There" comes on the radio and you start picturing slowmo scenes of whales splashing around at Seaworld. And admit it, the movie made you care about the friendship between a boy and his killer whale. How tricky is that to pull off? All the other characters are "feh," and exactly what this young, cake-stealing, delinquent had in common with a show-orca is a bit of a stretch. And yeah, we all knew what would've really happened when the whale jumped the pile of rocks with that kid underneath! "Chomp!" But every girl wanted to be a marine biologist after this movie, and this is where we got the idea that all killer whales are as friendly and cuddly as this Shamu relative was. Word to the wise though: don't bang on the glass!

Jumanji - I read the book before the movie came out, so I know there's no point in comparing them. Despite the horror and bad rhymes the thing put out, it looked like a pretty cool game, and chances are, you wanted to play it too. I know I did. The movie succeeds on its own terms, offering plenty of death-defying jungle stampedes through the town, giant spiders, rogue marksmen, flash floods, and even a few jokes with, and without, Robin Williams, but it also takes liberties and adds stuff like "plot" and "character" that were missing from the mostly-visuals book (still good). Some of the effects are "creature-shop" by today's standards, but they were state of the art at the time. And you can stop wondering why they don't all just rapidly roll the dice to get the game over with or just burn the board before it starts any more shit, because, word to the wise: don't try to cheat! 

Babe - This film is the damn masterpiece of pig movies (screw you, Gordy), and you'd never think so until you actually see it. A New Zealand piglet narrowly escapes being turned into bacon ("pig paradise") and miraculously ends up with an eccentric farmer who allows him to pursue his dream of being a sheep-herding dog. I tell no lies. There are also hilarious singing mice that come out of nowhere. Yet somehow not only does this movie make you want to go join PETA (without even trying), it actually makes you "feel" things like "emotions." Sure the "plot" of the movie can be confined to the last half hour, but all the other vignettes leading up to it have a real magic about them as this very odd friendship between this pig and farmer (who obviously can't communicate) culminates in that final tear-jerking scene where they lock eyes and James Cromwell utters "That'll do pig... that'll do..." and we all weep. Word to the wise: don't eat Babe for breakfast! 

Homeward Bound - Granted, it's been about fifteen years since I saw this, but I saw it enough times over the years to remember it. It involved three (telepathic?) house pets, two dogs and a cat, who get lost in the wilderness and have to make their way back to their owners, braving the wilds and each other. There was the wise old Golden Retriever "Shadow," the lovable dimwit bulldog "Chance," and the snarky, spoiled cat "Sassy," each belonging to one of the kids in the family. Shadow was always getting them out of a jam, Chance was always talking about eating underwear, and Sassy spent the whole movie bitching about everything, but in the end, they all made it home, even Shadow. I never had a pet growing up, but if I did and they ever got lost, this is exactly what I'd want them doing to get home, rather than just latching onto whoever gives them food. Word to wise: don't go sniffing around a porcupine. "It bit me with its butt!" 

All Dogs Go to Heaven - The last of Bluth's great masterpieces, All Dogs is one of his darkest and funniest at the same time. It starts off with the drowning and murder of our main character, a gambling hustler street dog named Charlie, by his cigar-chewing bulldog mafioso boss, and then gets darker from there (go figure!). He goes to heaven (not a spoiler) and manages to escape back to earth with the chilling "you can never come back..." ringing in his ears. Him and his buddy befriend a human orphan girl that his boss "Carface" is holding hostage, and a series of escapades ensue that end up putting Charlie first in line to hell, full of winged demons riding skeleton boats around a wirlpool of fire as little imps chew his face apart (not exaggerating!). And then to top it all off, a "big-lipped" alligator Elton John/Liberace comes right out of nowhere! Kids need to see this stuff, because in the end, Charlie's kindness in protecting this girl and finding her a loving home is just enough to rescue him from Satan's clutches, waiting for him on the horizon (yes, the real Satan!). Word to the wise: "You Can't Keep a Good Dog Down." Indeed! 

So there you are, another installment of great kids films from the 80s and 90s. Look forward to more of these in the future, whenever I'm inspired.

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