With mind-boggling special effects and zillion dollar budgets, we had a hunch that the kids of today might be harder to please when it comes to movie entertainment than we were back in the 1980s. We rode around on our bikes, scraped our knees and climbed trees, while modern children’s tiny little brains are just bombarded by images on screens, flashing colours and shiny alternative realities.
A movie director trying to hold the attention of a modern kid needs to be really on top of their game and that shows in the top five highest-grossing kids’ movies of 2021: Encanto, Sing 2, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Boss Baby: Family Business and The Addams Family 2. If you’ve seen any of them, you’ll know the sort of vibe – incredible budget-busting animation, clever scripts and Oscar-nominated music.
By contrast, the top movies for the entire 1980s included: E.T: Extra Terrestrial, Ghostbusters and Back to the Future. Are they absolute classics? Yes. But would a kid from the modern world be impressed by little aliens flying on bikes or ‘ghosts’ being hoovered up into rucksacks? We think maybe not.
But you never know and so, with hope in our hearts, we convinced an eight-year-old from today’s world to journey with us back to the 1980s (not in the DeLorean this time, but just on YouTube) to check out the trailers for some of the films that thrilled us at that age. And then we asked them what they thought and if, crucially, they think they’d watch the whole movie based on the trailer.
The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal came out in 1982 and terrified us to the bone. Jim Henson and Frank Oz co-directed the mythical tale of Jen, the last of the Gelfling race, who is charged with healing the Crystal of Truth after its mutilation ushered in an era of terror at the hands of the wicked Skeksis.
But, would it terrify our modern 8-year-old to the bone too? We prepared her for possible fear and assured her we could switch it off if it all got too much. Swigging a Coke, with a face of total indifference she said: “Looks good. Not scary at all.”
Would she watch it? “Maybe. 7/10.”
Onto Labyrinth and another Jim Henson movie that thrilled us as children. Released in 1986, it was the tale of a girl (played by Jennifer Connelly) who accidently wishes her baby brother away to the Goblin King (played by rock star David Bowie). “You remind me of the babe, what babe?” etc…
Did our eight-year-old wish to memorise that catchy tune or was she too worried about the Bog of Eternal Stench? Was she at least excited to see David Bowie in an acting role? “I don’t know who he is,” she said. “Woah that’s a lot of stairs, how is he walking upside down?”
Would she watch it? “7/10”
We were a bit surprised our 8-year-old hadn’t heard of E.T. Surely, E.T has endured as a childrens’ classic? The story of a little boy who finds an alien in his house and makes friends with it before helping it get back it its planet. It’s all incredibly touching.
“What’s that!” shrieked our 8-year-old. “How weird. What’s ‘E:T’? How are they flying on bikes?” I asked her what she would do if, hypothetically she found an alien living in her house and she said: “Run away and tell Mummy”. Which is actually probably a better shout than what Drew Barrymore does.
Would she watch it? “7/10”
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
We used to love this movie. A dad is left to look after the kids for the day and it goes disastrously wrong when they get ‘shrunk’ by his incredible shrinking machine and then lost in the back garden to be tormented by giant ants. The eight-year-old simply says: “Weird”.
Would she watch it? “Yes! 8/10”
Back to the Future
A zero on the clap-o-meter for the brilliant Back to the Future. She didn’t get the premise from the trailer. And even when we explained how it was about a time-travelling car and Marty McFly actually goes back and meets his own parents when they were younger she just said: “It was about an alien right? Oh what? No, I didn’t follow it.”
Would she watch it? “0/10”
At this point, rebellion started to skew the experiment. As we lined up the trailer for Ghostbusters the eight-year-old complained: “I don’t want to do this anymore! I’m bored!” She was bored of the 80s’ classics after only a few minutes of trailers. But we knew that Ghostbusters groove would get her as the music starts and she says: “Ooh I like the music…”
Would she watch it? “Based on the music, 8/10”
(“None out of 10,” chipped in a 4-year-old who was lurking nearby).
Flight of the Navigator
The main character finds a spaceship and then climbs inside and it takes off. When he gets home, his annoying little brother has grown up and time has somehow… “Woah,” says the eightyear-old, “What’s that? Is that a typewriter? What’s he wearing on his head?” We try to explain the time-travel element but she’s more interested in the weird little aliens in jars which she says are: “Gross.”
Would she watch? Again, she liked the music. “7/10. (The four-year-old gives it a 1/10)
The Neverending Story
Now, as an 80s’ kid, we had a bit of a crush on the boy in this movie. His name is Atreyu and he is the warrior from the Grassy Ocean in Fantastica. Very handsome to our younger eyes. But did our modern eight-year-old feel the same way? “NO! She says in disgust and screws up her face. And then, “Oh is that a dog?” when she catches sight of Falcor the Luck Dragon.
Would she watch? “No. 8/10”. (At this point we’re starting to wonder if she has a firm enough grasp of the scoring system).
Finally, we’ve reached the end of both of our ropes. “This so SO BORING,” she says as we fire up The Goonies trailer. And then, “Is this meant to be scary, because it’s not.”
Would she watch: “6/10”.