Have you ever dipped into Netflix’s kids’ section? It’s a realm of gaudy coloured franchises you never knew existed, threequels made for around 10p and forgotten films from the 80s that, even then, no one watched. A strong backbone of Disney classics infinitely increases the average quality of the section, but even they made Chicken Little. We at VODzilla.co are dedicated to covering all things streamable, so, naturally, the best way to tackle the breadth of cinema available for kids from the service is to get someone to watch them all. An adult. With no children.
Are there diamonds in the rough? Will Tinkerbell change lives? How long will this writer stay sane? Each article in this column will assess the films using three key questions: Will kids like it? Will adults like it? Is it well made? Welcome to NFK: Netlix for kids.
The 80s were a somewhat inglorious age for animation in the US, even if it was proving to be a creatively fruitful medium in Japan and the UK. Disney were struggling in the days after Wolfgang Reitherman (101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book) to find their groove, firing their most promising talents and making confusing, dark films like The Black Cauldron. Don Bluth was continuing to make films outside of the mainstream to varying success, and Orson Welles was performing for his final role in an animated Transformers movie. All of these films, however, are masterpieces relative to the cultural nadir that is The Care Bears Movie.
The target audience of a movie where sky-teddies teach children to care is probably not someone who is also likely to be writing a 500-word review of it online. But after watching it in its entirety, one wonders whether anyone, ever, has enjoyed it. Even the target demographic – theoretically the easiest to please – are going to be left bored, confused and most likely annoyed by the singing. It is an unmitigated disaster of anti-entertainment, a film so stupefyingly dull that it threatens the sanity and sense of any unsuspecting viewer.
The story follows the ursine creatures as they try to save their home – Carealot, a magical realm on clouds – from children stopping caring on earth. One bullied boy has found an evil book with a glowing green face that tells him to do bad things, and slowly all the care is leaving the world. There are characters called Tenderheart Bear and Cosyheart Penguin. (Not featuring in this movie: Bleedingheart Gnu and Lady Death-heart.)
It’s unsurprising that a cash in on a popular brand would be lazily made. The songs that pop up throughout the film are not only terribly written and weird, but the voice cast cannot sing. It’s as if they didn’t have the budget for auditions so just picked a couple of Canadian kids up off the street and decided that would be ok, regardless of their talent. The animation is unforgivably ugly, with jerky movements, clashing colours and the aesthetic of an advert for cereal laced with acid.
What is surprising is that the film is unsuccessful, even as a piece of entertainment. Regardless of whether you care about the look of a film aimed at five year olds, or how good the songs are, at the very least, you expect it to be fun. It’s difficult to imagine a child who wouldn’t be bored senseless by the lame moralising and event-less sludge that constitutes a plot. Children have more discernment than many studios give them credit for, often enjoying a variety of stories, not just factory-produced stuff calculated to get their parents’ money. Films aimed at them quite clearly do not have to suck. The film’s dreariness culminates in a chase through a funfair that should have been bonkers but is, instead, about as exciting as a jog through Preston, accompanied, of course, by some truly atrocious music to really ensure that it’s free of drama. The film ends with a song in one final effort to separate you from your sanity. It just might work.
The Care Beat Movie is not currently available on Netflix UK.