When I was young, my brothers and I watched the same handful of movies a thousand times. My grandmother lived four doors down, and she would cook us dinner multiple nights a week. We always arrived early, and while she cooked, we would watch our favorite movies on beat-up VHS tapes.
The lineup was cinematic gold. It included incredibly formative and life-changing films such as The NeverEnding Story, Teen Wolf, Big, and The Goonies. But my personal favorite was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. And I was super excited when I finally got the chance to share this piece of artistic genius with my own kids. It did not go as planned.
My excitement ran deep, because at the risk of sounding dramatic, this movie helped shape me! Protagonist Amy Szalinski, a high school girl shrunk to minuscule size along with her brother and two boy neighbors, became a real hero for me. She was a wannabe prom queen who ended up thriving as an unkept bite-sized survivalist in her own backyard. She shined in her role as protective big sister and although she was cautious and anxious, she met challenges with bravery and resilience. It was something I could relate to deeply, being the older sibling of two brothers and constantly priding myself on the role of their protector.
And it didn’t hurt that she also ended up dating the uber-cute and not-so-obviously cool neighbor, Russ, by the end of the movie. As a young girl, this was my kind of love story. No princess saving, no ruffles or glitter. Just a tall girl riding a giant ant through her backyard and sharing pieces of a skyscraper-sized oatmeal cookie with a guy in a pair of sweats and dirty sneakers. It was the exact picture of young love that my tomboy heart needed, and it fueled and created lots of adolescent crushes and daydreams.
And watching this seemingly silly, quirky movie sparked some important and meaningful thoughts in my young, developing brain. It opened my eyes to the incredible wonders existing right in our own backyards, often with creatures and things too small for our distracted eyes to even notice. It pushed me to pay more attention to the little things, and allowed my brain the freedom to imagine and dream in the most creative way — something I have carried into my adult life as a photographer and writer.
So of course, when my kids graduated from their G-rated movie era, I immediately started planning our Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movie night, complete with popcorn, soda, and a few of the infamous oatmeal cookie pies. We were ready to go. And based on how much I talked the movie up, the kids were excited. But quickly — like it always does in parenting — sh*t got real. And suddenly, my nostalgic, Instagram-worthy motherhood moment veered off into reality as I was peppered with questions and disapproval regarding character fashion choices, unrealistic effects, and “pixels.” I mean, how do they even know that word?!
As I urged them to keep watching (I mean hello! Anty hadn’t even been introduced yet and do you know how much my 7-year-old was going to enjoy the kids almost getting eaten with a spoon full of cereal?!), I noticed that they had fallen into complete distraction. With the circus of multiple bathroom breaks and snack changes settling in, plus arguments over blanket placement and chewing volume, I knew it was over. And I was bummed.
How could Honey, I Shrunk the Kids not stand the test of time? Is it really that outdated? Or maybe kids today lack the attention span to sit through a simple non-Marvel movie that is free of glitz and special effects. Or maybe they just have poor taste in movies. I think it’s gotta be the last one. We’ll work on it.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.