Friday, January 11, 2019

Introduce Your Kids to Crime Early and Often

Writers talk a lot about which books or films influenced their passion for crime fiction, mystery, and thrillers. Maybe you picked up a Chandler book from your uncle's book shelf, or like me, ran across Elmore Leonard on a long afternoon at the library. Maybe your mom was a big Patterson fan and you read all the Alex Cross novels before graduating high school.

Or,  if you're a few years younger than me you say... Finding Nemo.

Oh, you don't? Maybe you say you're current favorite mystery is Zootopia?

Kids movies have been playing with big themes ever since Walt sent Snow White into the woods to live with a bunch of workaholic short men, and it's only getting better. Here's a short round up of some of my favorites.

Finding Nemo

Call me crazy if you must. A couple of my friends and I saw this one in theater when it came out - we were the only adults without children. Remove the adorable animation and you've got a gritty, sometimes stomach wrenching thriller. A father is knocked unconscious in a brutal attack and wakes to find his wife and all his children but one brutally murdered. The incident turns him overprotective, paranoid, and broken.

Then, one day, the unthinkable happens. His son is kindapped by traffickers and no one will help. After teaming up with a woman who suffers from severe short term memory loss he goes on a race against time battling everything from "reformed" serial killers to electric shock, not knowing that his son is on borrowed time, waiting to be turned over to a sadistic killer.

Yeah, you let your kid watch it because of cartoon fish, but tell me I'm wrong.

Shark Tale

This movie is literally about a gambling addict who gets in trouble with the mob. The layers aren't even hidden. Throw in an accidental death that looks like a murder, a dead mob boss, a faked death, and all the trappings of any other mobster movie involving Scorcese (yes, he does a voice in this one), you've got yourself one of the most blatant crime movies for kids. This one never really took off, maybe because we already had a fish-thriller we knew and loved before it came around.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

This one has it all. Fox is a career criminal turned straight by the love of his partner in crime, but, like the old trope goes, he can't resist the temptation to pull one last job. The job goes wrong, as they always do, which leads to another heist, that goes wrong in a different way. The very people they were robbing are after them and will stop at nothing. One of the farmers (clear allegory for mobsters) is wearing Fox's severed body part as a necktie to taunt him. The kids pull a heist - a kidnapping! Revenge plot! Chase scene! Murder!

In the end the only thing that saves Fox and family is their willingness to band together with the other victims of the farmers' (mob) rule over the land, and make a stand criminals vs. organized crime. A movie that makes you root for the criminals? Hmm. Sounds familiar.

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