Movies for a Slumber Party

Jun 28, 2001

The Bottom Line Movies for girls in those in between years.

My daughter is 17, now, and for her that means that from now on no one will try to keep her out of the “R” rated movies - no longer will she and her friends be reduced to buying tickets to “G” rated ones and sneaking into the “R” rated ones. (Yeah, yeah, I know. Just when you think you’ve gotten the parenting thing down and nothing’s getting past you, they tell you they’ve been doing stuff like this.) She and I were talking about movies this morning, and right after she made her movie theater confession, we reminisced about the days when I obviously was paying more attention to what she watched – when she was in junior high and younger.

In those days, a sleep-over with her girlfriends could provide a dilemma. Of course they’d want to rent movies, but when they were, say, ages ten though fourteen, choosing something was difficult. There really is no universal code for offensiveness – what I thought was acceptable might seem like trash to other parents, and I was astonished at what some of them let their kids watch.

Also, those in between age movies are rare. All of the sudden the kids are offended if you bring home Mary Poppins – they want a few thrills – but which movies are wholesome enough without seeming too boring and juvenile?

We’ve made a list, based on those my daughter and her friends loved at that age. Some didn’t get great reviews from movie critics, but they were beloved enough in this house to be rented many times, and sometimes purchased. I was comfortable with all, but you might want to watch them ahead of time to see what you think. Also, the list is pretty “girlie”. I don’t have sons, so you folks with boys will need to come up with your own list!

1) Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken - A movie with a strong, admirable female lead is something you want for your daughters, and this movie has just that. Starring Gabrielle Anwar as Sonora Webster, an orphan during the Depression, this movie has everything a young girl might want in a movie: a) cute boys( Sonora finds love), b) melodrama (I won’t give anything away, but something tragic and sad happens to her), and c) horses. Most girls I know that are this age still love horses. (1991)

2) Into the West - Again, with the horses and this movie actually got some decent reviews. Set in Ireland, it is the adventurous story of two boys whose horse (the horse takes on somewhat magical characteristics) is stolen – when they steal it back, the chase begins. With an intelligent script and Gabriel Byrne (plays the kids’ Dad) to ogle, I wouldn’t mind watching this one again. (1993)

3) Newsies - This movie’s reviews were just awful, but I’m telling you, my daughter and her friends just loved it when they were about 10 or 11. I’m guessing it had something to do with the cast of cute young boys, but the girls watched it so many times that they knew the words to all the songs and most of the dialogue. Based on a true story, Newsies is about an organized strike by Newsboys against a newspaper in the late 1800’s. It has some good acting – Robert Duvall plays Joseph Pulitzer and Bill Pullman plays a reporter. (1992)

4) Watcher in the Woods - When girls start wanting movies that are a little scarier than Snow White but you aren’t ready for them to rent Nightmare on Elm Street, this one is a good alternative. This one’s got two kids, a haunted house, and a mystery to solve. My daughter says it still frightens her. Bette Davis stars as a scary old woman, the kind of role she sort of perfected as she aged. (1980)

5) Escape to Witch Mountain - A pre-teen Disney thriller, this one is the story of two kids with supernatural powers that are running from evil bad guys who want to use their psychic abilities to further their dastardly agenda. It stars Eddie Albert and Ray Milland. (1975)

6) The Moon Spinners - This Hayley Mills movie is all teenage sexual tension and no sex (one nice kiss at the end). Set in Greece, Hayley plays a girl who is on vacation with her aunt and finds herself in the middle of intrigue and danger involving some nasty jewel thieves. (1964)

7) Mouse Hunt - This is one of those laugh out loud movies and it uses live actors (plus one animatronic mouse) but is made to look and feel like a cartoon – it is, in a word, wacky. Two guys (Nathan Lane and Lee Evans) inherit an old house and have the darnedest time exterminating a pest. (1997)

8) The Witches - Starring Angelica Houston (she plays the head witch) in another movie with mice (Angelica wants to turn all the children in the world into them) but this one’s not so wacky. If you want to know the truth, I think The Witches is awfully scary in a Grimm’s fairytale way, but it is very well done. Based on the book by Roald Dahl, it features special effects by Jim Henson.

9) Cinderella (with Leslie Ann Warren) – I think there is something that will always attract many girls to this ever-so-sexist but pretty story, and this musical version is a little more grown-up than the cartoon one. It’s romantic, and the songs (Rogers and Hammerstein) are sweet. (1964)

10) The Princess Bride - This one seems to be everybody’s favorite- it’s a fairy tale that is smart, beautiful, romantic, and exciting. Starring Robin Wright-Penn as the princess, and featuring Billy Crystal, Mandy Patinkin, and Andre the Giant. (1987)

Don’t be surprised if your daughters turn up their noses at these suggestions. (They’ll think you obviously aren’t aware of how sophisticated they are and say something like, “But Mom, Molly’s mom lets us watch American Pie.” Don’t get angry with Molly’s mom until you find out if this is a big fat lie or not.)

Kids age 10 to 14 might seem like they are in a big rush to grow up and watch the more adult movies, but they enjoy and are comforted by nice movies like these. You’ll see.

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