7 Quick Takes: “Pearls Before Swine” Edition

Seven Quick Takes:

“Pearls Before Swine” Edition

In choosing movies, my kids have more or less beaten me down.  Of course I don’t let them watch just anything they want, because, obviously, some things are harmful or inappropriate in themselves; and some things are just so dang stupid, they do damage to immature aesthetic organs.

On the other hand, it’s so unpleasant to spend an evening shushing and chastising sulky kids while they ruin a perfectly good movie.  And all they remember about the movie is that you yelled at them all the way through it.

So we more or less compromise, and let them watch a small amount of really worthless stuff (Scooby Doo); a lot of accessible stuff that has some merit, even if it’s only the merit of well-crafted entertainment (Daffy Duck); and then some Good Movies They Ought To See (High Noon), whether they want to or not.

The following list is a subcategory of accessible-with-merit:  things they ought to easily enjoy, but don’t, just to drive me crazy.  For these movies, I wait until the kids are really desperate for entertainment, and then gradually wear them down until they accidentally start enjoying themselves.


The Thief of Bagdad (1940) (available to watch instantly on Netflix)

Is this actually even a good movie?  I sure loved it as a kid.  It’s a Sinbad-ish story about a (remarkably white-bread) beggar/king Prince Ahmad who goes adventuring with his little brown buddy Abu, and wins the princess with the help of a gigantic and greasy genie with Brooklyn accent.

I sometimes think that the more clumsily-executed special effects of this era (together with the garishly brilliant color scheme) portray magic  better than slick and perfect CGI.  The roughness makes it all the more startling and otherwordly, which is how it ought to be.

Why the kids didn’t like it:  It’s dated and goofy.  I think there are songs, too, which is intolerable to sophisticates like themselves.


The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1986) (often on sale for $5-7 at Walmart and Target)

A completely charming live action dog and cat buddy story set in the lovely Japanese countryside.  Dudley Moore narrates and does the dialogue, perfectly giving voice to the natural gestures and expressions of the animals.  He’s clearly ad libbing in places, and some of it is just comic genius.  I thought the turtle part was especially funny (for my TMC classmates:  the turtle always made me think of Mr. Shea), and I really like the fox:

Why the kids didn’t like it:  I really don’t know.  They do show a dog giving birth in more detail than I would like.  It’s not a typical computer-manipulated, squeaky-voiced animal picture, which takes some getting  used to.  Also, it opens with an irritating folksy kid song “We’re gonna take a walk outside today,” which really gives the wrong impression about what kind of movie it is.


A Christmas Carol (1951)

The only movie version of this story you will ever need.  Most convincing (and entertaining) conversion story you will ever see.  So many elements of this movie are unforgettable:  the pagan grandeur of Christmas Present, the terror of Scrooge alone in his cold house, hearing the dragging chains coming closer and closer; the the brilliance and sincerity of Alastair Sim’s timing and facial contortions.  A nearly perfect movie.

Why the kids didn’t like it:  It’s black and white.  Some of it is pretty hokey, and the emotionalism (Scrooge’s sister’s deathbed; the miniature lost souls in agony waving their arms around) made them uncomfortable.


West Side Story (1961)

A modern (50’s) retelling of Romeo and Juliet with unforgettable music by Leonard Bernstein.

Haven’t actually made them watch this one yet (it’s not so much the sexiness as the sad ending that’s made me hold off.  I’ve been really chicken about exposing them to sad endings)–but I’m pretty sure they’ll hate it when I decide they’re old enough.  The baby, however, loved it:  lots of jumping and dancing, loud drums and swirling skirts.  Boy, the music is so great.

Why the kids won’t like it:  the dated scenario and slang, the gang members doing menacing jetés and arabesques, and some of the plot points (the wedding scene comes to mind) are important but subtle.


The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)

How did they pull it off?  It’s a story about a small tribe of simple and noble Bushmen being threatened by the violence and consumerism of the western world.   But it doesn’t preach.  It doesn’t even teach.  It’s more of a funny, moving, and unusual fairy tale with a happy ending, which creates strong affection for several of the characters (and not just the Bushmen).  I remember the sweetness, but was surprised at how much slapstick is in this movie, too.

Why the kids didn’t like it:  Because they’re bad, bad kids.


The Iron Giant (1999) (available to watch instantly on Netflix)

A little boy discovers a giant robot, who has to develop a conscience and save the world.

Why the kids didn’t like it:  I suspect it’s because they were made nervous by elements which they thought I wouldn’t approve of:  the main character is really bratty, occasionally uses bad language, and there’s an irritating anti-establishment vibe.  But I think the good of this movie outweighs these slightly distasteful aspects, and one scene (when the Iron Giant murmurs “Superman . . . “) makes me (and–shh!–my husband, too) leave the room when I know it’s coming, because it makes me cry.


Whoa, that’s only six!  Oh well.  I also forgot to list which scenes might not be good for kids.  Sorry!  Going to bed now.

Don’t forget to check out Jen (and excuse her dust.  I love that phrase!) at Conversion Diary, where she is hosting the weekly 7 Quick Takes linkaround.


  1. I love the gods must be crazy, and I agree that alistair sims scroogeis definetly the best (we always loved how silly he acted after he woke up in the morning) but the lost souls are pretty creepy.

  2. The God’s Must Be Crazy…true story. We rented this and laughed our heads off as kids. About half-way through my younger brother stands up and announces, “I’ve seen this before, he kills a black goat!” Surely enough the bushman kills a black goat. Ay,yi,yi,yi,yi…

  3. Great takes. Also love Milo and Otis. The birth scene caused my very young niece to include the hole for where the baby comes out in her artwork. My sister had much to explain to the preK bible study teacher.

  4. My kids like the Iron Giant, and they liked West Side Story (which we watched after reading Romeo and Juliet).

    Best line in West Side Story – well, said while watching – was my then eight-year-old:

    Well, no one dies in musicals, so this will be different than Shakespeare.

    Poor kid was dumstruck when gang members started dying. Her little eyes got so wide…

    We watched The Karate Kid last week (streaming Netflix, I love you!), and so now I’ve got two aspiring Karate Kids who think the Crane thing is not as cool as it really is. Sheesh. Talk about pearls before swine!

    • I feel ready to admit this now: I hate Casablanca. It’s about six hours too long, it’s messy and confusing, I hate everybody, and it’s boring. There, I said it!

  5. THe Gods Must be Crazy is a funny movie. I remember happening upon it when I was a teen and my sisters and I all got a kick out o it. My all-time favorite version of A Christmas Carol is A ChristmasCarol: the musical with Kelsey Grammer. I just LOVE it and watch it an obscene amount of times during the advent/Christmas season Surprisingly, my young kids love it too and will sit glued to the tv the whole movie. There is a slightly scary part in the beginning with Marley and other ghosts. It’s a truly fantastic movie.

  6. My young kids once saw “Nuns on the Run” at a friend’s house. They adored it, which inordinately pleased me.

    The fake nun: “The Holy Spirit is like a dove.” The young student: “Is that a methaphor?” The fake nun: “No, it’s a bird.”

    I love when my kids love the movies I love. Someday I will show them “Room with a View.” They’d better love it.

  7. We’ve had some luck with a few of these movies for our kids (Thief of Baghdad and Iron Giant, especially), but my husband is really good at hyping movies beforehand. Our girls really like silent-era movies, too, especially Buster Keaton, and we made the mistake of thinking they would also like “The Passion of Bernadette”, a movie we had heard about but hadn’t watched ourselves beforehand. My poor five year old almost had a nervous breakdown in the middle of it – waaay too intense! It’s a great movie, but I hope we haven’t screwed our kids up by letting them watch it too young.

    We really, really love Netflix. It’s our main medium for watching anything now, and we keep the old Addams Family episodes and Fairy Tale Theater on our queue permanently. Our older kids also love the milder Twilight Zones.

  8. I loved Milo and Otis when I was little! And a couple of years ago I did buy it in the $7 bin at Wal Mart. I thought I’d hate it after a 10 year break from watching it, but it’s still good!

  9. Our kids loved West Side Story (it’s in their genes – my husband played Tony years ago), but I was a little worried about how much of the Tony/Maria thing they understood.
    Also, the ballet gang fight is absolutely HILARIOUS. I’m just worried if my boys get into a fight with one of the real gangs around here, they’re going to be in for a schocker.

    NPR has played the music from it from time to time, and they always notice and love it. Good durn music!

  10. I LOVE Milo and Otis and my kids did too. I think it’s just all the cute little things the cat and dog did and because they have always suspected that our dog and cat can talk but were hiding it from us. This movie makes them think our animals really talk to each other when we are not around. I know. But they’re young. They still believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and think that toys can talk too, a la Toy Story.

    One of my all time favorite movies is White Christmas and my kids are still to young to “aw Mom!” me. I think I can get one more day after Thanksgiving showing of it and then I’m done until they go off to college.

  11. Seven…no, eight! Eight accessible-with-merit (or merit-with-accessible) Halloween-themed rentals available from Netflix:

    Wallace and Grommit: the Curse of the Were-Rabbit

    The Nightmare before Christmas

    The Corpse Bride

    It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

    The Simpson’s: Tree House of Horror

    Bedknobs and Broomsticks


    Monsters, Inc.

  12. Oh man, good choices. Possibly my wholehearted approval comes from how many times Abba rented these for all of us.

    I especially love the Thief of Baghdad, and the “I want to be a bandit” song still comes into my head pretty regularly. I concur about the special effects. Stop-motion skeletons, for example, look *way* more scary than CGI ones, partly ‘cuz of how they lurch.

    I tried showing A Christmas Carol to my 7th graders at Trivium once and the got all squirmy and bored while I got angry. So, that didn’t work.

    I happened to rent The Iron Giant a couple of years ago and *loved* it.


  13. My kids love “The Gods Must be Crazy.” When my sister and I saw it the first time, we watched the fire-stomping rhino scenes over and over. I think about that every time we build a campfire.

  14. I am glad to hear that I am not the only grown up who cries watching the Iron Giant, although my tears well up every time he says he is not a gun. A great movie.

  15. One of my all time favorites is “The Court Jester” with Danny Kaye and a very young Angela Lansbury (who played Jessica on Murder she wrote)–that tells you how old the movie is. The storyline is about a baby who is heir to a throne being switched with the child of a peasant to ensure his safety (his only identifying mark being a purple birthmark on his bottom). It is hilarious and years later the dialogue still sticks in my mind (“the palace from the chalice has the pellet with the poison–the flagon with the dragon has the brew that is true” is told to the hero (an inept swashbuckler played by Danny Kaye) to protect him, but a latter switch results in new advice “the vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison…” There are funny musical numbers, one where Danny Kaye’s character explains how he became a court jester (entitled I made a fool of myself). My kids loved it.

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