There are movies *for* kids, and there are movies *about* kids. We tend to prefer the latter, when they're done well, because movies targeted directly at young audiences tend to be patronizing. You might even say they sometimes misunderstand their audience... and make the bad assumption that kids are kind of stupid. Or an easy touch for a kicked-in-the-nuts joke or fart humor. The fact is, in our experience anyway, kids aren't stupid -- they just think a little differently than adults.
The idea behind "I Declare War" was to tell a story about how it felt to be 12 or 13 years old and try to capture that difference in thinking before we got too old to remember it. It's an age when everything feels life threateningly intense, everything seems permanent, and at the same time it's somehow socially acceptable to commit unspeakable emotional violence to each other. Jason wrote the story because he played war at that age. The movie was shot in the exact woods where Rob played war as a kid. It was easy to connect with the material.
One of the key elements we worked to maintain was the decision not to patronize the characters because of their age. The movie we wanted to see was going to be a little more referential to real life at 13 (or at least to the way we remembered it) and we really wanted it to be something parents could watch with their 13 year olds... and not end up wanting to burn their own eyes out. We grew up with films that fit that bill, but for some reason they seem to be few and far between these days.
Anyway, here's a list of movies featuring young people that actually behave like real young people, in all their pain and glory.
Why do people shit on young actors all the time and just assume that performances by kids are inherently bad? How many Oscars do people under the age of twelve need to win to change the public’s mind? Tatum O’Neal won hers at age TEN for her hilarious and hyperactive performance in this Peter Bogdonavich masterpiece.
When you see Nicolas Roeg’s name on a movie marketed to children, then you know there’s probably more going on than a typical family film. This movie shows incredible empathy for just how frightening it is to be young, when everything is unknown and almost every adult feels like a threat.
"Bad News Bears" (2005)
Man, did Richard Linklater get kids right when he made this follow-up to "School Of Rock." We need more movies where kids swear. They’re good at it. It should be celebrated. Unfortunately everyone in the world is stupid and this film got shit on when it was released for some reason.
Truffault is the king of making movies about children. He never, ever forgot what it felt like, and right up until the end of his career he could always be counted on for an empathetic celebration and lamentation of everything that makes childhood wonderful and terrible.
Here’s a movie about the real power of a kid’s imagination: 11-year-old Anna draws a house in crayon one day and that night wakes up inside her drawing. The next day she draws her father inside the house to help her, but accidentally gives him an angry expression, turning her dream into a nightmare where she’s being chased by a monstrous version of her Dad. Remember when your own imagination scared the shit out of you?