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'Heavyweights' and 4 more kids' films that are smarter than you think

One thing my friends know to avoid asking me is to see any animated movie. “Animated movies are for children,” I’ll retort, angering them and probably angering most of you who are reading this right now. I’m reluctant to take the time to see any film deemed a “children’s” film. I like gritty, I like gory. That’s what life is like. It’s not all singing and dancing anthropomorphic objects.

The only way I end up watching children’s films is accidental—or how I discovered the brilliant Heavyweights: encountering it while flipping through channels.

Here are five that I caught by happenstance. I can proudly report that not only did I enjoy them, but I would encourage other adults to watch as well. Let’s begin!

Heavyweights (1995)

The protagonist of Heavyweights is Sam, an overweight boy sent begrudgingly to a weight-loss camp. After he arrives, he finds the camp has been taken over by the maniacal fitness guru, Tony Perkis—arguably Ben Stiller’s funniest role ever. The eclectic group of misfit campers join together to oust him from the camp. Although not the most physically fit campers, they make it up in precociousness, cleverness, and wit. Although it has a predictable message—that what you are on the inside, not what you look like on the outside, is what really matters—it’s anything but preachy or trite. Little known fact: The film was co-written by Judd Apatow, and his affinity for witty dialogue is already apparent.

Sky High (2005)

Before Christopher Nolan determined that superhero films had to be dark and brooding, films based on comic books were as colorful and wacky as the comics themselves (think Batman Forever). Sky High, a high school for emerging superheroes, really took back the fun in having superheroes in films. An endearingly awkward Michael Anganaro plays Will, a teen who finds out his parents, Kelly Preston and Kurt Russell (perfectly cast), are secretly superheroes. Then he gets sent to the special school in the sky for emerging superheroes. Once there, kids are automatically branded as either hero or sidekick.

The tropes of superhero comics are mixed with tropes about teenage angst in a really clever way. Sky High deserves to be in the top lists of superhero films. Extra kudos for casting Lynda Carter as the school principal.

She’s the Man (2006)

When you recoil in disgust that I would even suggest to an adult that they should spend the two hours on this, just remember that before Amanda Bynes was tabloid fodder, she was a very talented physical comedian. The plot of She’s the Man, although based on the Shakespeare play Twelfth Night, is insane and convoluted. However, the unpredictable antics keep the film from being stagnant. Bynes does a great job of impersonating her twin brother, acting her way through the hilarity that ensues from her impersonating a teenage boy.

This is also an early role for Channing Tatum, as the clueless jock that she has to manage her crush on while disguised. Even I had to admit that he is undeniably charming when he does comedy. The wacky Shakespearean trope of mistaken identity does make this film stand out among the usual teen comedies. I’ve usually had a hard time convincing others that this film is indeed worth watching, but the ones I do convince are glad I did.

A Little Princess (1995)

The classic story by Frances Hodges Burnett, directed and imagined through the director Alfonso Cuarón, is guaranteed to be visually pleasing. The lush settings of an imagined India and a London boarding school at the turn of the century are masterfully filmed, as is the lush wealth of Sarah Crewe and her father. The earnestness of the book is preserved, and it is filmed beautifully. As a director, Cuarón also gets the greatest performances out of the child actors, something that’s not often found in children’s films.

Little Rascals (1994)

Penelope Spheeris probably has one of the most disparate directing portfolios of any director. From the punk documentary The End of Western Civilization to Wayne’s World to a movie based on the 1920s show Little Rascals, so many of her films just work. There’s something about children speaking precociously as these kids that really tickles me. The film is a true homage to its source material, even using the old trope of a child standing on the shoulders of another under a trench coat to appear as an adult. I’m not ashamed for finding it hysterical.

The children are perfectly cast, they’re admittedly adorable, and they appear to understand good comic timing. I never would have watched this on my own, but we played it during a rainy day when I was a day-camp counselor, and I was secretly grateful when the kids wanted to watch it again immediately.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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