Parents attest that there is nothing worse than sitting through an hour-and-a-half of visually splendid nonsense aimed at young children at the cinema. While our little darlings are bouncing in their seats and probably high on sugar, their bored adult chaperones find that we couldn’t care less what’s happening to any of the shallow, so-called “characters” in the film. The best children’s movies aren’t just pretty stories with a perfunctory moral message – they’re well plotted and funny enough to be enjoyed by all age groups.
Yet there is often a strong attention to detail in family films, especially the animated ones, when compared to other genres; this gives them a higher production value than many other movies being released at the same time. Here are five films supposedly aimed at children that their parents will secretly enjoy – and like children, will probably want to return to again and again.
5. Despicable Me (Animated, 2010)
From the moment bad-guy Gru (Steve Carell) deliberately pops the balloon of a little boy at the park before freeze-raying his way to the front of the queue at a coffee-house, adults realise that this film isn’t just for kids. An antihero who looks rather a lot like Uncle Fester from Adams Family fame, arch-villain and adoptive father Gru enjoys behaving badly in a way with which grown-ups, especially those currently frustrated by young children, can relate.
One of the funniest scenes by far is a bedtime sequence. Gru refuses to read a bedtime story to his three adopted girls (who at this point have only been brought home to aid him in a diabolical scheme; he clearly hates children). When the youngest and cutest girl Agnes complains, “But we can’t go to sleep without a bedtime story,” Gru doesn’t melt. “Well then it’s going to be a long night for you, isn’t it?” He cackles sarcastically. “So good night, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite. Because… there are literally thousands of them.” We can imagine the sighs of envy as exhausted mums and dads everywhere consider using that line at home.
Luckily, kids also love ‘Despicable Me’ – from the slapstick action to the oddball behaviour of Gru’s horde of little yellow men, his “minions” – and all ages feel increasingly sentimental as Gru and the girls become an unlikely family. By the end of the movie, Gru’s diabolical schemes have become less important than keeping the family together. This is definitely one for all ages, with a hilarious performance from Julie Andrews as Gru’s uber-critical mother as well.