4 Kids' Movies With Happy Endings That Aren't Actually Happy
Have you ever rewatched a TV show or movie you loved as a kid? Maybe a stray repeat of Dexter's Lab catches a younger relative's eye while you're flipping through channels, and purely out of nostalgia, you decide to watch it with them. It's fun at first, but then you start asking questions. How the hell did he afford all that lab equipment? Didn't the $35,000 electric bills his experiments must have produced ever cause his parents any concern?
That's when you realize that it's happened: You've become a cynical adult. From that point on, you'll never watch a kids' movie the same way again. I know this to be true because I tried watching a few of my favorite movies from my childhood again recently, and a lot of them left me with just one thought: The "heroes" I used to admire in my favorite movies were actually total assholes. Here are a few examples.
Lilo & Stitch
To Kids: Stitch, or "Experiment 626," was created in a lab by a scientist who wants to use him for evil or something. He escapes and crash-lands on Earth, becomes best friends with a little girl named Lilo, and forms the Hawaiian word for "family" with her. Meanwhile, an evil Child Protective Services agent is trying to break them up.
To Adults: There's nothing evil about that CPS worker at all. If he seems hellbent on tearing them apart, it's only because Lilo is being raised in an awful environment and rescuing her from it is his damn job. She's in the care of her older sister Nani because, as in every Disney movie, their parents are dead. It's understandable that the two might struggle to keep things together after that -- and they do struggle indeed, but a lot of it has to do with Nani just being downright negligent and irresponsible.
Early in the movie, Lilo is left to fend for herself and find her own way to hula class.
Mandatory for all Hawaiian children.
Sis couldn't set up a carpool with one of the other kid's moms or something? Even worse, she's late picking Lilo up afterward, and the teacher tells the kid, who can't be more than six years old, to just wait on the steps until someone shows up. What if no one is showing up, lady? Maybe there's been an accident! Sometimes it seems like the CPS worker is the only one who actually cares if Lilo lives or dies.
That seems even more true when, naturally, Lilo doesn't wait on the steps and instead decides to walk. Luckily, she makes it home safe, at which point we get a look at the house she lives in, and boy is it a shithole. Clothes everywhere, the kitchen is gross, the stove is on for some reason, you name it. Even worse, it's a shithole Lilo is all alone in, because her "guardian" is still nowhere to be found.
Would it kill the kid to maybe throw a load or two in the washer?
Why am I supposed to feel sorry for Nani again? A child is clearly in danger here. Things get even shadier when Nani and the CPS agent arrive at the home right around the same time. Of course he sees all the chaos, and the movie for some reason makes him the bad guy for it. That's his job! Parents have lost their kids for way less than what was going on inside that house. Oh, and we find out that Nani knew about the visit ahead of time. So maybe keep the kid home and tag team cleaning the house like a responsible guardian? Despite all this, they get another chance, and Lilo stays with Nani.
Days later, Lilo goes to get a puppy, because why not add a dog to the equation when you already can't manage a child? That puppy turns out to be Stitch, who ended up at a dog shelter after landing in Hawaii.
"Won't you help this disgusting freak of science find a forever home?"
Stitch, to put it bluntly, is a total damn menace. After settling in with Lilo, he's immediately spotted by the alien scientists who've been sent to our planet to recover him, and uses his new "friend" as a goddamn human shield so they can't track him. Once they get home, he destroys her toys. He makes a huge mess everywhere he goes, like that time he tears shit up at the local market. Someone's gotta clean that up, man.
The awful choices keep coming when Nani decides to bring her and Stitch to work. They destroy the place, of course, because Stitch is a shitty lab monster who destroys everything he touches.
Including struggling families.
Nani gets fired. The movie wants me to feel bad for her. I guess I sort of do, but also, damn, find a babysitter. As one does when they've lost their job, Nani decides to take the family surfing. As if surfing isn't already dangerous enough for a six-year-old, Lilo almost drowns when Stitch pulls her underwater to once again evade his would-be captors. Somehow, the CPS agent sees all of this and still lets them stay together.
Nani promptly leaves Lilo home alone again, this time to go see about a job. At least that detail involves a glimmer of responsibility. Leaving her home alone with the space animal that almost killed her does not. Sure enough, the alien scientists show up, and things get so out of hand that the house is literally blown up.
Lilo narrowly escapes death because the CPS agent shows up and rescues her. All of this because Nani was too irresponsible to realize they were in no position to own a pet. It's tragic, really.
To Kids: What's better than a snow day? Two snow days. That's what the kids in the appropriately-titled Snow Day want. Too bad the "evil" snow plow guy wants to ruin it for them by plowing the streets. No! Stop him!
To Adults: If you live in a place where it sometimes snows heavily, the guy who operates the plow is always the hero. He clears the streets so we can get to adult stuff like work, doctors appointments, and whatever place you drop your kids off to get away from them when the sun is out. Snow days make an adult's life chaos. Kids who love their parents wouldn't want it this way.
Also, I feel sympathy for the plow guy, if for no other reason than that the movie points out that it was an unusually warm winter. If he's a contractor ...
... that means he probably hasn't had work for weeks. We never hear about his family, but we do know that he's got himself and that creepy pet crow he hauls around everywhere to feed. As a former kid myself, I understand the desire for an extra day off from school, but watching this movie through the lens I look at the world with now, the kids definitely seem like the bad guys here.
Speaking of which, can we take a quick sidebar to talk about Hal? He's the older teenage brother in the scheme, but instead of helping bring on another day off, he just spends his break stalking a girl he has a crush on. And I do mean stalking. At one point, he says he knows how many times she blinks before she jumps off a diving board.
He finds an ankle bracelet she dropped at the pool, and instead of returning it to her, he sniffs it while alone in his room at night. Later, he jumps in front of a news camera because he knows it's the channel she watches at that exact time each day. This isn't cute teenage behavior, like finding out what party she's at and crashing it. No, this kid has problems that will be big trouble for someone some day. We never hear what becomes of these issues, though, because everyone's too busy plotting to "unplow" the streets in an attempt to thwart their civil servant nemesis.
Wait, what? How are they going to unplow the streets? By kidnapping the plow guy, of course.
The face of a man who thinks he's going to die tonight.
Man, it's the dead of winter and you're just going to leave him chained to a pole while you go commit minor acts of domestic terrorism in your own hometown? If the hypothermia doesn't kill him, he's at least losing a few fingers. Maybe he'll lose them all. Maybe it will mean he can't drive anymore. Nice. Enjoy your snow day, you little monsters.
How To Train Your Dragon
To Kids: It's the story of Hiccup, a child who finds an injured dragon, heals him, trains him, and and harnesses his dragon powers to save his village. What could go wrong?
To Adults: Hiccup is a mess. He's skinny, bad at his blacksmith job, and a disappointment to his father. Dad wants him to follow in his footsteps and be a dragon hunter. The movie plays this like it's just some odd-couple situation that boils down to a mere difference in interests. But no, this isn't some retired NBA player forcing his kid to play basketball. The vikings are at war with the dragons because they keep swooping in and stealing livestock. Sounds minor, but when you're raising your own food, it definitely is not. It's life or death. So yeah, this kid should totally be spending his time trying to get better at fighting dragons.
Every kid should know what to do in this situation.
No worries, because dad has a plan. They're going to find the dragons' nest and destroy it! The movie doesn't make it clear if this is the first time they've had this idea, but holy shit, I hope not. That seems like a day-one strategy to me. It wasn't, though, because this is a war that's been carrying on for a while, as evidenced by the wide array of P.O.W. dragons they keep on hand to teach the more competent children to fight. By the way, this "training" amounts to those dragons chasing and shooting fire at the kids. Statistically speaking, there's absolutely no way several children haven't died making this necessary sacrifice for their country.
There's a child under that fire!
On the bright side, Hiccup's fortune changes when he accidentally shoots a dragon out of the sky while working on some kind of slingshot apparatus. He then heals the dragon and learns to tame it and ride it. That last part leads to him discovering the location of the nest, where he spots a gigantic dragon that eats the smaller dragons if they don't bring back livestock.
If you see something, say something.
This is quality intel. If dad and the rest of the village know this, they can build an attack plan that focuses on just killing the big dragon that's leading to the livestock problem, and then use Hiccup's newfound dragon-whispering skills to keep the peace.
He tells his father nothing. Even when he accidentally reveals the location of the nest (of course) and his dad sets course to attack it, he doesn't bother mentioning that there's a skyscraper-sized dragon waiting to destroy them. He does eventually use his dragon-taming ability to save the day, but only before almost getting everyone killed by withholding crucial information.
Hey Arnold! The Movie
To Kids: The movie version of the popular kids' show about Arnold, a kid who always finds a way to save the day. But this time, he's faced with a problem so big that it takes 75 minutes to solve, and you have to pay to watch it. Awesome!
To Adults: The mayor announces that the six-mile stretch of Brooklyn Arnold calls home is going to be leveled to build a mega-mall. The handful of residents they show during this scene aren't into the idea, and that makes perfect sense. Maybe some people don't want to relocate their entire family or business. Remember, though, that these are six miles of land occupied by lots and lots of people. As the series made clear several times, it's an area that's no stranger to crime. There are dilapidated buildings everywhere.
There are children in that trap!
Maybe these people don't want to go, but there could be plenty of struggling residents and business owners who'd welcome a buyout and an escape from their crime-infested surroundings. At least the people behind the plan are offering buyouts. They could just jack up the rent to the point where no one can afford to pay, thus forcing everyone to move. Maybe there should be a meeting of some sort to discuss everyone's options?
Nah, Arnold launches right into pushing the neighbors to organize a rally. When the police shut it down, everyone but Arnold's grandfather has decided to sell. People are making plans now. They've found new places. Maybe they've even spent some of the money. There will be a Starbucks soon.
That's how this works. Nevertheless, Arnold presses on, willing to derail everything and make almost everyone else's life a hassle in the process. Also, rebuilding could have been a financial windfall for a previously impoverished area. There were probably people hoping they'd land a job there, including the vast amounts of construction people who'd be employed to build it.
But again, Arnold doesn't give up. His granddad tells him some looney-ass story about a tomato war that once happened in the neighborhood. Arnold decides to try to get the place designated as a historic area because of that, which makes sense, as far as planning goes. What makes less sense is the series of crimes and various other types of destruction Arnold unleashes trying to make this happen, culminating in his squad dynamiting a section of the street so that construction crews can't pass. This is in Brooklyn, one year after 9/11.
By this point, Arnold and his co-conspirators should probably be in jail, but through a series of lucky breaks, his plan succeeds and no one has to move. They're free to live happily ever after in their crime-riddled section of Brooklyn. Thanks, kid.
For more from Jawn, follow him on Twitter @JawnLouis.
See how Pixar movies ingrain in us cynicism and despair at an early age with 8 Dark Life Lessons Kids Learn From Pixar Films. And relive the moment you found out that your puppy would go to Doggy Hell in 9 Traumatizing Moments from Classic Kids Movies.
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