When Will My Kids Be Able to Tell Bad Films from Good?

There are 10 kid films currently among the saved programs on my DVR, and it’s quite a motley crew: Atlantis 2: Milo’s Return; Max Keeble’s Big Move; Happy Feet; Tarzan; Spy Kids 3; Inspector Gadget; Cars; The Water Horse; The Incredibles; and Enchanted.

My strategy is to scan the cable channels weeks ahead of time and record anything for my kids that looks like it has the bare essentials of a story (Sorry, Wiggles).

What my kids—10, 7 and 7—choose to watch on Saturday mornings as I prepare their breakfasts is completely unpredictable, though the fact that they’ll end up arguing about it is a given.

But what’s also a given is their reaction: Every film they sit through, from Oscar winners to sloppy sequels, is “Awesome!”, “Great!” and often “The best movie ever!” (That was their verdict for last week’s showing of Atlantis 2, Milo’s Return. To me it plays like a drawn-out episode of Scooby Doo.)

My first thought: These guys are perfect for jobs in the movie-poster industry.

My second: While their responses make me feel like a genius cinematic curator, it’s also a bit frustrating. I spent two years at film school, worked for the Academy of Motion Pictures for three years, never miss an Oscar telecast and I am a big movie fan. That basically means I trust myself to know when a movie stinks.

To my kids, there’s no such thing as a bad film (though they were actually a little underwhelmed by Wall-E, of all things).

When will my children be able to look at me and say: “Father, this film was derivative, unrealistic and lacked a definitive story arc. And was that sudden earthquake an example of deux ex machina or what?”

Okay, I’ll settle for “That wasn’t so good.”

I know what you’re thinking: When they’re teenagers, my children will have nary a good word to say about anything. Fine. But for now, I’m anxious for their tastes to mature, not just so we can enjoy making fun of really bad movies, but so we can truly appreciate the really good ones.

(No offense, Milo.)

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