Critics' Camp

Kids tell us what they think of summer movies

Gazing at a couple of pizzas, a pitcher of Cherry Coke, and a quintet of preteens engaged in a roundtable discussion of summer movies, I realize that Lyn-Lake's Dulono's Pizza doesn't smell like teen spirit--and, nine months shy of my 15-year high-school reunion, neither do I.

In other words, it has been a while since I knew what preteens really think; I'm feeling my age in a way I haven't since Dee Dee Ramone's leather jacket turned up on The Antiques Road Show. But that's okay: I'm happy to defer to the younger set, especially when it comes to picking a summer movie, which is something that no one over 30 should be trusted to do. The panel members, to their credit, don't seem to trust their 32-year-old interviewer: They appear surprised that I didn't second-guess their order of caffeinated drinks or their presence in a room full of secondhand smoke. I start to feel inadequate as an adult, and, in an attempt to salvage some clout, I offer a few guidelines for our discussion, ending with the classic, "Any questions?" I imagine The Breakfast Club's John Bender creaking back in his chair, cocking his head to one side, and answering, "Yeah, I've got a question. Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?"

Upon closer inspection, I find myself utterly unable to pigeonhole George, age 12; Michon, 13; Meghan, 13; Alex, 10; and Ann, 12, into what Bender would've called "the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions." (George, as a matter of fact, is a working critic; his website is There's nothing in their fashion or demeanor--save George's Ramones T-shirt--that works to establish any one of them as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and/or a criminal. Across the board, they're dressed simply in pullover shirts and jeans, with a refreshing absence of makeup, body piercings, or complicated, product-saturated hairstyles. They are, unapologetically, kids. And while they prove in no way immune to my consultations, they do seem quite aware of what they're going through.

Does she have to spell it out? April DeGideo in 'Spellbound'
Does she have to spell it out? April DeGideo in 'Spellbound'

CITY PAGES: For this discussion we agreed to see Finding Nemo, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, The Hulk, and Spellbound. How do you normally pick the movies you're going to see?

GEORGE: Sometimes if my friends have seen good movies and recommend them, I may follow the fad. Or sometimes I'm forced to go to movies for, like, birthday parties or other special occasions.

MICHON: Also there are the ads on TV or the little trailer things before movies.

CP: How many movie ads do you think you see in a day?

MICHON: About four a day.

CP: Are there guidelines that you and your parents have agreed on for movies that you can and can't see?

MEGHAN: If there's an R-rated movie or a movie my parents might not want me to see, then sometimes they'll rent it and watch it first and decide if I can see it or not.

ALEX: I can't really see any PG-13 movies. I can see anything under PG-13.

GEORGE: My parents go to this website,, where [the writers] view movies and tell you all the bad things in it. Like if they're blowing each other's heads off, or if they're having a special fantasy in bed or using the F-word or something like that, then they might say no. And if they say no, you can just forget about it!

MICHON: My mom is the one who's really picky about what we're going to see. PG-13 movies, I can pretty much see them all. But R movies I can't see.

CP: Never?

MICHON: Never.

CP: Never ever?

MICHON: Never ever. Sometimes my mom just thinks a movie is too stupid and she doesn't want us to see it. Like Dumb and Dumber.

GEORGE: Well, it was dumb and dumber.

CP: Are there any movies you're just waiting to see until you're older? Do you have a list?

GEORGE: Well, I'm into Hitchcock and I'd like to see Psycho. There are lots of movies that look good, but are rated R. I just can't wait until I'm 17: I'll save up a few hundred dollars and go though the movie store with a wheelbarrow and rent 'em all.

CP: Let's start with some movies you could see, like Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Did you like it?

GEORGE: I thought it was unbelievably wonderful trash: partially nude women pulling action stunts and beating up men. I think they try to make the Angels look smart, but then, on the other hand, they always have to kick people's butts and dress up in fishnet stockings. I think some girls are like that, but here you just have too many wiggly blondes and it's like, Whatever.

CP: What do you think Charlie's Angels says about girls?

MEGHAN: comment.

MICHON: I think they tried to show that the girls are all different. My friends will talk about that and say, "You're like Dylan," or, "No, you're more like Lucy Liu." We talk about that.

ANN: I think it says something positive. It says we're not, like, wimps or anything.

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