— As the father of two young children, my minimum expectations for kids' films is not very high. Sure, in an ideal world, I’d love for them to be smart, funny, educational and entertaining. I’d also like them to come with free popcorn and pony rides. But in the meantime, I’ll settle for something that buys an hour or two of peace and quiet on a rainy weekend or on a road trip.
You’d think it wouldn’t be difficult to meet that standard. Sadly, it sometimes is. Here are some of the worst kids films out there, in the hopes that you can avoid some of the pitfalls we popped into the DVD player.
Yeah, it’s a classic, and you saw it when you were a kid. But his mom dies! He gets shot! The forest catches on fire! And then your kid starts crying and looks out the car window to see a deer that was hit by a car lying dead by the side of the road. Good luck with the rest of that car trip, buddy.
'Old Yeller' (1957)
A beloved dog gets rabies and the family has to shoot him in the feel-good film of the 1950s. Great for when you want to explain the fun subject of death to a small child. Why did Disney hate animals so much? Were the movie-studio people allergic to fur?
'101 Dalmatians' (1961 cartoon, 1996 Glenn Close version)
The plot itself is a bit nutty. Making a coat out of dogs? Who does that? But worse than Cruella de Vil’s fashion sense is the fact that your children will definitely start asking for a Dalmatian of their own for their next birthday.
'The Cat in the Hat' (2003)
Just a tip. If a children’s book can be read in five minutes during bedtime, it’s probably tough to make it into a feature film without a ridiculous amount of shameless padding. Mike Myers is funny and Dakota Fanning has done some great work, but Martin Short’s voiceovers on the PBS cartoon are 1,000 times more watchable for viewers of all ages.
'The Tale of Despereaux' (2008)
A great film if your kids like cartoons that are dark and depressing. Much of it takes place in caverns and dungeons, the rats are sinister and scary, and even the coloring in the palace is drab. Plus a big plot point is the banning of soup in the kingdom. Banning dessert might get the kids fired up with outrage, but soup?
'Mars Needs Moms' (2011)
Who would have thought that a film about a mom being kidnapped and transported to another planet by aliens wouldn’t be a hit among the smaller set? Besides “everyone.”