Based on our enjoyment of Ponyo, Netflix thought that our family “might also like” Kikkerdril, a Dutch film about an adorable little boy named Max who wanders around the Dutch countryside in search of frog’s eggs.
Now, the original Dutch title translates as “Frog Spawn”, which I guess the American distributors felt wouldn’t go over well here, so they renamed it Max’s Magical Journey.
Whatever. As a person interested in both nature and children — and in films that present nature to children — I found this film to be delightful. It’s a refreshingly simple and earnest depiction of a kid discovering nature. Totally low-budget. No CGI. No amazing macro photography. No underlying environmental message.
And I love how Max just wanders around with no accompanying adults — through meadows and woods, riding through town on a bike, sneaking onto a public bus to get back home, encountering strangers with dirty teeth and making friends with them, messing around with irrigation equipment, milking other people’s cows – all stuff that, if an American parent allowed their kid to do, they’d be investigated by Social Services.
Max has the kind of childhood that I wish my son could have (except for the weird blue jumpsuit he wears all through the film…must be a European thing)….the kind where a kid is free to roam as he pleases and expected to get dirty, the kind where he can approach strangers with a trusting heart instead of fear and suspicion, the kind where his parents let him outside and then (OMG!) sort of lose track of him.
I should tell you, the little musical numbers in this film are awful (almost like the actors improvised them right on the spot) and the English voiceovers are stiff and awkward. But if you have a kid between, say, 3 and 8, they might surprise you by getting totally absorbed in this simple, sweet little film.
And even if you don’t have kids, but want to remember what it was like to roam through fields and woods, looking at bugs and trespassing on others’ property, you should watch this film, too. Don’t worry, I won’t tell.