#997 The Journey of Natty Gann (1985)

The Journey of Natty Gann pictures the 2000-mile long pilgrimage of the young Natty through the depression era America to find her father.

For being a Disney family movie, it’s a movie painted with surprisingly dark tones, ultimately making it a movie I wouldn’t necessarily want to watch through with my kids. On the other hand being a Disney family movie it is a bit too much of a sugar coated family picture to really dig into the grim reality of being a homeless kid during the great depression, and I had this constant nagging feeling throughout the film that I wasn’t in the core audience the movie was made for in the first place.

But the movie is still a delight to look at; the cinematography is top notch and the time period feels a somewhat movie like, but well established and believable. Relationship of Natty and her wolf is a thing of beauty, as well as his friendship with the fellow vagabond Harry, played by John Cusack. It’s ultimately those small moments of carrying each other through the moments of despair that make the movie wholeheartedly recommendable – even if you’re not dead center in the target audience.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 62%

#977 Kidco (1984)

As I aim to steer away from family movies directed solely for kids, I set out to watch Kidco wishing it’d had something worth watching for the adults as well.

Not the case as Kidco turned out to be one of those inane, utterly annoying kids’ movies that take the lowest common denominator route: Precocious know-it-all kids and babbling idiots as the adults who just don’t get the kids, it’s all here!

Kidco is probably one of those movies that you’d have to see it as a kid to be able to appreciated it afterwards. For the others, the mileage you’ll get here will likely be slim to none.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 24%

#908 The Dirt Bike Kid (1985)

Some of the family movies are awesome and in their own way the best that 80s has to offer; the movies like E.T., Princess Bride or Big are crafted with such a mastership that they enchant both the old and the young. These are the kind of movies that manage to revive that small kids inside of us and make us want to believe there might be a little bit of magic and adventure left in the world.

Then, there are movies like The Dirt Bike Kid. Designed by a committee of adults specifically for the kids with ideas lifted from other movies. Starring here can be seen Peter Billingsley, that kid from A Christmas Story that wanted a BB gun from santa. If you adored that movie, stay clear from this one as all that charm is absent here.

The Dirt Bike Kid is a prime example of a soulless creation that happens when you design something to monetise on a specific demography by trying to figure out the lowest common denominators.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 17%

#731 Masters of the Universe (1987)

As it turned out only years later, Masters of the Universe was the biggest scam of my childhood. A franchise created by the toy maker Mattel just to sell some overpriced plastic figurines, Masters of the Universe and the accompanied animated television series swept the US and Europe, netting billions of dollars.

And thus enters the movie. What makes the movie interesting to the adult viewer is its strong cast. Although Dolph Lundgren later listed this movie the least his favorite one, his looks and physique as the He-Man seem a step up from the original cartoon character. Although buried behind a thick latex mask, Frank Langella manages to bring Skeletor fabulously alive through intensive eye acting and body movement. Billy Barty makes a perfect Gwildor, a Thenurian inventor dwarf created specifically for this movie, and last but not least, James Tolkan creates one hilariously relentless character in Detective Lubic who manages to steal every scene he’s in.

Compared the stinkers like Flash Gordon and the Superman line of movies, Masters of the Universe’s production values are sky high. While the film is not exactly my cup of tea, this is pretty much as good a movie that’s possible to make from such a two-penny concept as He-Man.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 70%

#715 Ernest Goes to Camp (1987)

There are two kinds of family movies: Those that have many things to offer to both the kids and the adults, and those with very limited interest to the grown ups. Ernest Goes to Camp falls in the latter category.

A second movie to feature Jim Varney’s Ernest character, this is your typical kids’ movie where the kids are smart, every adult is a one-dimensional dimwit, and the humor never manages to evolve beyond the cartoony slapstick. Ernest Saves Christmas, released the following year is a much more well rounded movie in this sense.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 58%

#713 Mac and Me (1988)

An awful, cheap copy of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Mac and Me takes a lot of notes from its role model and executes them in a disappointing fashion.

For a movie build upon an illusion of an alien character, the puppetry work here is really subpar. Not only are the puppets plasticky and generally off putting, they always look just that – Puppets – without ever giving the impression of real, actual breathing creatures. The movie is sprinkled with the most blatant product placement of the 80s and there’s a constant stream of absurd scenes like a totally random dance party taking place in MacDonalds and revival of a whole family of half-dead aliens by making them sip a few drops of coke.

A collection of poor design choices, Mac and Me is like E.T. with all the magic, fun and joy stripped out of it.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 17%

#706 D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)

D.A.R.Y.L. is a tale of an cyborg boy who gets smuggled out of a secret research facility and placed on a foster home. He soon shows some extraordinary talents, many with activities he just picked up for the first time.

As much as a genius he might be, having lived in an isolated environment all his life, he’s socially awkward in an innocent kind of way. Much of the best moments of the film are derived from this setup; D.A.R.Y.L. getting acquainted with real world with his non-existent social skills. There’s a lot of great insights here, like in the baseball scene as his best friend Turtle suggests him to make a few mistakes every now and then to make his foster parents feel like they’re needed.

D.A.R.Y.L. is an extraordinary movie, and watching it requires one to take multiple leaps of faith ranging from a researcher who reveals a multi-billion secret project to a bunch of civilians to the whole government not being able to figure out he is heading back to where he was taken at the first place.

My suggestion is to look past the obvious plot holes, watch the movie as a sort of a modern day fairy tale and you’ll find D.A.R.Y.L. an entertaining watch.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 86%

#541 Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

A bunch of kids get shrunk by a shrinking ray and venture around in a very glass fiberish and styrofoamish micro world of their back yard in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, an ok’ish sleeper hit of the 1989 that hasn’t hold its magic quite as well as I’d hoped for.

It was a lucrative project for the team though as the movie netted a cool $130,000M, making it the fifth biggest box office hit of the year and later spawned two sequels, released in 1992 and 1997 respectively.

80s-o-meter: 65%

Total: 74%