A Wrinkle in Time Oprah Storm Reid

Every week in /Answers, we answer a new pop culture-related question. In this edition, we celebrate the release of A Wrinkle in Time by asking “What is your favorite ‘kids on an adventure’ movie?”

Vanessa Bogart: Stand By Me

While there are many colorful tales of children expressing their imaginations through impossible journeys and learning powerful life lessons through magic and wonder, my favorite childhood adventure was always the one about the four foul-mouthed boys in 1959 who go on a long trek to find the body of a dead boy.

Based on a novella by Stephen King, Stand By Me is a raw and unfiltered coming-of-age story in the way that only King can write. The tender moments between Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman), and Vern (Jerry O’ Connell) are made all the more sincere in contrast to the crass humor, uncomfortable language, and dark subject matter. Stand By Me taught me something new every time I watched it throughout my adolescence. There was a good 10 year period growing up where it felt like an ever-changing and evolving movie that perfectly formed around whatever life-lesson that I didn’t know I needed at the time.

Having guided me into adulthood, I can now watch Stand By Me as a perfectly complete film, fully illuminated with everything I learned from it.

Chris Evangelista: The Monster Squad

While most people my age seem to hold The Goonies up as the ultimate “foul-mouthed kids go on a life-threatening adventure” flick, I’ve never really cared for the film. It’s loud, it’s overblown, and the kids are constantly yelling over each other at once. I was not a Goonies kid.

Instead, my allegiances were with The Monster Squad, the 1987 Fred Dekker film written by Shane Black. Perhaps it was because I was obsessed with monsters, particularly of the Universal Pictures variety, but The Monster Squad has had a special place in my heart ever since I first saw it. And best of all, it still holds up. And not in a nostalgic, rose-colored-glasses sort of way. No, the film is well made – equally funny and scary, with some pretty gory special effects.

Best of all: it’s kind of sweet. Even now, as a cynical, cold-hearted adult, I can’t help but tear up when the film lays on the emotional moments between Phoebe and her best friend, Frankenstein (the monster, not the doctor).

The plot: monsters – Dracula, the Wolfman, The Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and yes, Frankenstein’s Monster – are all real, and they’re all hanging out in one particular California town. The only ones who can stop these creatures of the night are a gang of horror-movie obsessed kids. It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s often very offensive and dated (it was the ‘80s), but most of all, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Ethan Anderton: Last Action Hero

Yes, this movie is undoubtedly flawed thanks to studio interference and some missed opportunities. But the premise of this movie and the final cut we got is exciting and promising enough that I can’t help but love how ambitious it is. You could even call it Ready Player One before Ernest Cline ever even imagined creating his own virtual pop culture mash-up.

Last Action Hero imagines a world in which the characters of movies essentially exist in the same universe. The logistics of this particular world offer up some inconsistencies, with Sylvester Stallone taking the place of the real Arnold Schwarzenegger in movies like Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But a world where the rules and tropes of a movie are commonplace as the confines of reality is so much fun. Then take a kid who is obsessed with movies and throw him into that world and you’ve got a fun formula for a movie and one hell of an adventure for another kid to daydream about.

Even though Last Action Hero isn’t executed to its full potential, having Arnold Schwarzenegger play around with his big screen persona is enough to keep it entertaining. While the third act opens up infinitely more possibilities than it has time to explore, when I was a kid (seven years old at the time this movie came out), the idea of entering the world of movies was a dream come true, and I’ll always love this entertaining but flawed adventure.

Jacob Hall: Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are is unlike any other “kids on an adventure” movie ever made, mainly because it’s not a movie made for kids. Despite being based on a beloved children’s book, Jonze made a movie for adults. Adults who read Where the Wild Things Are when they were young. Adults who remember the pain and joy of childhood. Adults with the capacity to look back  and reflect on the strange beauty and raw terror of what it’s like to be young. Childhood is about infinite discovery, but it’s also about not knowing anything. The world is huge and you’re lost in the dark without a flashlight. All you can do is dream and scream, play and rebel. Being a kid is a miracle…but it hurts.

Jonze brilliantly uses Maurice Sendak’s tale of a boy and his monster friends to remind us of what it was like to be a kid. The hulking creatures, triumphs of visual effects, stand in for us and everyone we knew: goofy, fun-loving animals who are unaware of the pain they cause and don’t know how to deal with the hurt they feel. Where the Wild Things Are is a difficult movie, and that meant it was a box office disappointment when it hit theaters in 2009, but time has been kind to it. It’s a remarkable film that’s less about kids on an adventure and more about what it feels like to be a kid on an adventure. Kids will probably hate it. And then they’ll grow up. And they’ll see themselves in it. And they will remember.

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