15 April 2010

No Kidding

I wonder why it is that, in virtually every commercial Hollywood movie made today, the cast includes the witty, cleverer-by-half, dare I say "precocious" child who, somehow, manages to solve the mystery, says just the right thing to unite separated parents, or provides that otherwise intangible bit of something that somehow makes everything okeh by the end of the film -- displaying his/her supposed innocence like a billboard saying "if you were childlike, like me, you wouldn't be having these problems."

It used to be that a substantial role for a child would only exist in a movie when his/her character was actually central to the plot -- like Tommy in "The Window" (1949) or Rhoda in "The Bad Seed" (1956). I don't know when it started, this catering -- to whom, fertile adult women movie goers? -- and pandering for audience dollars by shoehorning a child into the script for no reason other than to be there.

Today, such pointless child characters are absolutely everywhere, whether it is the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (2008) -- where annoying Jacob replaced the intelligent Bobby from the 1951 original version; or Henry in "Michael Clayton" (2008) who seems to do little more than talk endlessly about a video game and book on which it is based. They're cute, they're worldly beyond their years and, let's face it, they're pointless. In most cases, they are completely irrelevant to the plots at hand -- easily proven by the fact that (really) you could remove the character from the script and not affect the story.

What really annoys me are films like "Aliens" where the character of Newt only exists to allow the plot to exhibit a child constantly in danger. Such characters are distracting as hell, annoying beyond words and serve only to diminish the quality of film writing. ("I can't think of anything original or clever, so let's just throw in a six year old.")

It would be nice to start seeing films where, if there is a child character, that child acts his/her age, contributes something that would be reasonably expected of a child of that age, and contributes something believable to the story -- rather than bolstering the unrealistic expectations of movie makers that all children are geniuses or "little adults." They are neither, no matter how many times they may appear so in films.

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