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DID YOU READ

Are children’s movies made by people who hate kids?

Are children’s movies made by people who hate kids? (photo)

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The box-office story of the weekend is the relative failure of “Shrek Forever After”; it made $71.3 million, sure, but ticket sales revenue dropped 41% from the last film even as 3D ticket prices jumped to $20 in some areas. One too many trips to the well? Too pricey? Did people finally notice the movies aren’t very good?

Whatever the reason, one viewer who wasn’t pleased was avant-garde specialist (and personal favorite) Michael Sicinski, who walked out at the 14-minute mark absolutely fuming. His main beef had nothing to do with jokes, but with the attitude: “How, pray tell, do you begin an animated movie that’s ostensibly for children with a loud, angry depiction of a father’s desire to escape the routinized suburban dragdown of parenthood?”

The makers of “Shrek el Quatro: Please Let It End” are basically inviting the young’uns in, to tell them straight-up, “you kill our souls a little bit every day (but don’t worry, in 90 minutes we’ll forgive you).” This “two-layered” bullshit — numbnuts lost-youth bellyaching for the grown-ups, fart jokes for the kids — is based on the faulty, insulting premise that kids don’t get it.

This seems like a problem that goes way beyond the “Shrek” franchise, of which we are now apparently free. Making a movie for kids is always a difficult proposition — ideally the kids should be entertained without adults suffering too much.

There has to be a protagonist kids can relate to, and most of the time that has to be either a cartoon creature, an animal or an actual child (pubescent or pre-); it’s possible to make a movie without any kids at all, but at that point you’re basically in talking animal hell:

Making a children’s movie that actually works is a difficult balancing act — it’s not surprising that most people give up and just slap together kicks to the crotch and cute lil things, with some pop-culture references for adults. But that doesn’t mean that kids have to be treated as obstacles to be conquered or pesky annoyances, which is what ends up happening all the time.

05242010_aliens.jpgTake “The Spy Next Door” (Jackie Chan must win over the kids who irrationally despise him, otherwise he’ll never get to marry their mom), “Tooth Fairy” (ditto, only with one kid to win over), “Aliens In The Attic” (kids noisily save the world while their parents are just trying to have a beer and relax), and so on. These can all probably be blamed on “Home Alone,” in which little Kevin McAllister annoys his parents so much he has to be abandoned so he can learn to chill out and not be such a jerk. Nowadays, the myth of adult-child parity is frequently traded in for outright mutual animosity.

There’s a difference between contempt for kids — that is, making sloppy movies because they won’t know any better (true enough for, say, audiences under eight years old) — and outright loathing. How else to explain that popular, tiresome cliché of the dad who has to learn that business meetings aren’t as important as a soccer game/ballet recital?

In last year’s “Imagine That,” Eddie Murphy actually walks out of an important meeting — in a recession economy! — because he’s learned his lesson. It’s hard not to want to strangle your kid after that movie, which doesn’t even make sense. (You have to wonder if all those smart-talking precocious kids who outwit adults are meant to make you dislike children.) There’s something kind of disturbing about barely veiled contempt for your target audience — that’s not the way to make the kids behave.

The “Shrek Forever After” trailer is below — “Sometimes I wish I had just one day to feel like a real ogre again.”

[Photos: “Shrek Forever After,” Paramount, 2010; “Aliens In The Attic,” 20th Century Fox, 2009]

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.