You know that sinking feeling you’d expect to get if you heard that principal photography had just begun on a feature film entitled “The Smurfs: A BLUE Generation”? That feeling is exactly what this list is about. The first decade of the 21st century has brought us a plethora of ill-conceived remakes, reboots and reimaginings of cherished icons from my childhood and has generally trashed my fond recollections of growing up.
Here are ten of the biggest culprits, in no particular order:
10. Where the Wild Things Are, the movie
Despite not actually seeing this movie yet, I’m confident that it could do nothing but despoil the special place the beloved literary classic holds in my heart. Admittedly, that place is pretty small and sparsely inhabited, containing only the thoughts “monsters are spiffy” and “I need cooler pajamas”, but I will carry those feelings with me forever*. Were there suggestions that the home of the titular Wild Things was a refuge from the boy’s own broken home? Probably. But my aforementioned special place doesn’t really have room for deep, insightful stuff like that.
9. Transformers, the movie
Where to begin? This movie has, on its surface, a lot going for it: explosions, giant robots, lasers, etc. What it doesn’t have is any of the things that made the original animated series great: explosions, giant robots, lasers . . . um . . .
Come to think of it, Transformers: The Movie is an awful lot like the animated series of my youth, but with the added bonus of an outstanding performance by several of Megan Fox’s body parts. Maybe I need to rethink this whole childhood nostalgia thing.
8. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
See above, but with extra helpings of yummy, racial-stereotyping goodness.
7. Dungeons and Dragons, the movie
This one may take the prize for Childhood Icon Most Thoroughly Ruined; it manages to not only offend those that love the original pen & paper role-playing game but also confirms that a whole generation of musclebound, meat-headed middle-schoolers were probably fully entitled to taunt and abuse me. I was outraged that the heroes were able to sneak behind a beholder’s back while it was floating mere feet from them, and outraged that this movie caused me to publicly acknowledge that I knew it was impossible to sneak behind a beholder (or that I even knew what a beholder was).
6. David Carradine
For years, my only exposure to David Carradine was his role as the funny-talking long-haired old dude on Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. Even before I discovered he had also played the funny-talking no-haired young dude on Kung Fu: The Legendary Journeys, Kwai Chang Caine had been cemented in my mind as One Bad Motherfucker. He could kick stuff and recite vaguely Asian-sounding quasi-philosophy and was generally someone that, while he didn’t go looking for fights, sure knew how to finish them once they started.
Then he walked into a closet in Singapore . . .
Needless to say, I have had to revise my definition of Bad Motherfuckery.
5. The X-Men
These inimitable avatars of teenage angst made flesh started the decade out strong, but now find themselves languishing in the same superhero limbo as Aquaman. Director Brian Singer did an admirable job of translating ink to film in the first movie and mostly avoided the temptation to “improve” upon the comic book in his sequel. Sadly, Brent Ratner did not follow the same mantra of “take it seriously” when he took the helm for X-Men 3: The Last Stand. The mind boggles at the notion of a presumably sane person coaching an actor convey his character’s loneliness and longing for recognition with the line “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”
X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was doomed before it began, no matter what words came after that colon. It could have expressed its thesis much more honestly with the title X-Men Origins: How to Make a Comic Book Nerd Weep. The outlook for the cinematic future of this franchise is grim at best.
4. Alvin and the Chipmunks, the movie
Yes, yes, I know Alvin and the Chipmunks were around long before I was, and I’m sure that my parents were sure that they had jumped the shark when Mr. T guest-starred on their Saturday morning cartoon in an obvious and shameless exercise in cross-promotion. And yes, I know that David Seville and the Chipmunks is actually the band name created by musician Ross Bagdasarian to sell his novelty records in the 50’s and that their images have been tweaked endlessly through the years in order to best appeal to the newest batch of future consumers, but dammit, we were spoon-fed this mindless drivel intended to part our parents from their hard earned money and we liked it the way it was!
3. Anything that has appeared on Robot Chicken, ever
I can’t help but feel that the people at Cartoon Network’ Adult Swim are engaged in a single-minded campaign to prove to me just how crappy all the things I loved as a child are. Even worse, I adore this show. Every hilarious, ingenious scene is another stone in the tomb of my fond childhood recollections, and I glibly hand them over to be lampooned.
2. Harry Potter
Some of the best children’s fantasy available to me in the 1980’s was written by C.S. Lewis, a man who died 17 years before I was born and whose books, wonderful though they were, came to my attention only as a part of my parent’s good-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to indoctrinate me with Christian dogma. I could count on one hand the number of other kids I knew that had read The Chronicles of Narnia.
Children today take the popularity of fantasy literature like Harry Potter for granted, but such was definitely not the case when and where I was growing up. Reading Narnia made me one of the cultural elite. Let those low-minded cretins make due with their Hardy Boys and Boxcar Children; I knew that what I was reading was finer stuff. Now any old slob can cavort with unicorns and talking animals.
Also, Reepicheep could totally kick the shit out of Hagrid.
1. Dora the Explorer
When I was little, all us white kids in the suburban Midwest learned Spanish the good old fashioned way, which is to say we didn’t learn it at all. Sesame Street’s Maria did the best she could, but how she hope to compete with that awesome pinball animation and its funky, syncopated twelve count? English numbers were just so much cooler. And if she wanted us to think Spanish was so great, why didn’t anyone else on the show speak it? Big Bird, the hippest guy on the block, didn’t need Spanish, so why did I?
Dora the Explorer renders Maria’s paltry language lessons obsolete. Dora lives in a world populated with creatures that transition from English to Spanish and back again without missing a beat, and if you want to hang with them, you’d better learn the lingo.
I bet I’d have paid more attention to Maria if she had a god damned monkey.