A Boy (or Girl) & His (or Her) Adventure Movie

Where have all the fun youth/tween/teen/twentysomething adventure films gone?

When I was in any of those age groups listed above there were dozens of them. You couldn’t turn around in the 80s and early 90s without hearing about another one coming along…

From the big titles like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, Explorers, The Last Starfighter, Stand By Me, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to films like The Rescue, Labyrinth, Red Dawn (I know, I know, this one is kinda dark, and not necessarily suitable for all viewers but still…), Space Camp, Iron Eagle, D.A.R.Y.L., Cloak & Dagger, War Games and Flight of the Navigator.

Those adventurous, fun and enjoyable for all ages films that seemed to have vanished. Or maybe I’m just not hearing about them. I like to think I do, and I’d like to think I would go see them when they came along – I mean I saw all the Harry Potters, and I guess that’s the closes thing to that idea that we’ve seen in the theaters for awhile.

There’s a fun and innocence in these films, a spirit of joy and adventure that seems lacking from a lot of the films aimed at younger viewers today, or those in their tween years. You could make an argument for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, which I have seen, and enjoyed both, and honestly, looking forward to the third. Beyond that there doesn’t seem to be an honest to goodness adventure film, or ensemble cast film of young actors telling tales of youth, innocence and fun.

Are those things, especially innocence, dead?

In a time when children are growing up faster than before, are they missing out on the wonder and excitement of the world around them and their own imaginations?

Just a thought.

I remember when I was a kid (don’t you hate stories that begin like that?) we would be outside running around, playing games, and fostering our imaginations. That’s not to say we didn’t watch movies, or tv, but we also went outside and did things!

And those movies, all of them, helped fire the imagination, and inspired our games, our own stories, and activities.

Have I just gotten too old and am

not seeing these films today? Or have they really disappeared? The last ones I remember before the Harry Potter films came along are Little Manhattan (one of my fave romantic comedies by the way), The Sandlot and Alex Rider.

You could argue about the recent Journey to the Center of the Earth films, but I don’t agree, not to mention how far they seemed to stray from the source material.

If anyone could recommend one, please, I’d love to see that same fun kind of adventure film again…

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Gareth says:

    Zathura, Real Steel and the Narnia movies are probably the best throwbacks to the kind of movie you are talking about in recent memory.

    Super 8 was a watchable mash up of ET and Jurassic Park.

    The Spiderwick Chronicles is solid; a slightly less edgy version of gremlins. Attack the Block is brilliant and really captures the feel of some the edgier children offerings from that decade but it is most definitely not appropriate for young viewers.

    Bridge to Terabithia is a sweet little coming of age drama with some fantasy elements and one of the most misleading marketing campaigns of all time.

    Stardust is great comic-fantasy in the vein of the Princess Bride.

    I’d also highly recommend tracking down the Johnny Maxwell trilogy of novels by Terry Pratchett (of Discworld fame) which feel the Last Starfighter (Book 1: Only You Can Save Mankind), the Goonies (Book 2: Johnny and the Dead) and Back to the Future (Book 3: Johnny and the Bomb) as written by Douglas Adams or Monty Python.

    Another series of books I’d recommend are John Marsden’s Tomorrow series, sort of like Red Dawn meets the Breakfast Club.

    1. TD Rideout says:

      Thanks for the comments Gareth.
      I totally agree with you on Super 8, and can’t believe it slipped my brain while I was writing the article. Zathura, for me, fell into the same realm as Jumanji, and I just couldn’t get into it, cause it felt like I had already seen it.
      While I liked Attack The Block, the only characters I really did like were the two little kids, I just couldn’t relate to any of the other characters, not look I could with The Goonies, or E.T.
      You’ve totally nailed it with Bridge to Terabithia, they really didn’t know how to advertise that film.
      And Stardust was brilliant.
      But one wonders, Sue said this in our podcast with Lance Guest and Catherine Mary Stewart – will I watch any of those movies, and 20 years later still be moved by them like we are with films like Stand By Me, Labyrinth, and The Last Starfighter…
      Will they stand the test of time, and more importantly, the fickle heart?

  2. Gareth says:

    If you get past the similarities and take off the rose tinted glasses Zathura is a much better movie than Jumanji though. The tone is consistent, the plot isn’t overcomplicated, the filmmakers know who the main characters are and the kids are just more likable.

    Probably not, most of the movies that try to be like the movies of the 80’s and early 90’s haven’t exactly been mega-hits. I don’t feel sorry for kids today though they have stuff like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Avatar the last Airbender, all the Pixar movies and a good handful of DreamWorks films and superhero movies to look back on fondly.

    1. TD Rideout says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Gareth!
      That’s awesome, though I assume by Avatar The Last Airbender you are referring to the awesome TV series and not the poor film adaptation 🙂

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