Battle of the pre-teens and toddlers

With the recent release of Room, one of its stars, Jacob Tremblay, has brought child actors to the fore again. Errol Kerr fills us in on the best and worst ever

15th February 2016

With the critical success of Room in cinemas, it has drawn a significant amount of attention to young Jacob Tremblay. As Jack, he portrays an abductee who is led to believe that the titular Room he lives in is the only real thing in the world. His character arc is spectacular, which is unusual considering the range of child actors, so perhaps it’s worth looking at the very few decent ones in relation to the awful rest of the little starlets…

Everyone loves Home Alone, I’m sure. Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin was the most entertaining character in it, with his role immediately grounding him as one of the best child actors of all time. Sure, his character arc mightn’t be the best, but he represents what it is to be a naughty kid unbelievably well, and his bad behaviour comes into its own when defending his house from two (really stupid) burglars.

Alongside him in the ranks of decent child actors is Dakota Fanning. Multi-faceted, able to portray emotions, not entirely robotic; she’s almost perfect! That is, until you see her in War of the Worlds as Rachel. My God, she got stuck with the ‘Girl That Screams At Anything Remotely Abnormal’ role, and it doesn’t help that the film itself is pants. I almost feel bad for Dakota in this film. Other than that, cannot complain!

That’s…about it for decent child actors, however, so let’s look at the…‘fun’ ones. So, who likes token stereotypical characters? Who loves Indiana Jones? Enter Short Round. Jonathan Ke Quan’s character exists as an awfully offensive sidekick to the hero of a good old ‘White Person Saves a bunch of POC’ tale. As if the endless shouting of “Doctor Jones!” wasn’t bad enough, he acts more like a pet to the archaeologist than an actual human. Nice going, Spielberg.

"Child actors and actresses tend to be incredibly poor at what they do - it’s always entertaining to laugh at them slightly"

The Harry Potter trio may now have a lot more acting practice now, but in the early films, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson left a lot to be desired. Radcliffe’s somewhat robotic, angsty nature (which, to be fair, hasn’t really changed), combined with Emma Watson practically just *existing* in those films (and being petrified in half of the Chamber of Secrets) is only really saved by Rupert Grint’s sheer enthusiasm. Let’s face it, everyone fell in love with Ron after the whole giant Wizard Chess scene in The Philosopher’s Stone.

The worst, however, is probably one many would agree with…Remember Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace? Yeah, I wish I didn’t, either. You’ll also remember the bawling, blonde, bowl-cut bastard that was Jake Lloyd’s Anakin Skywalker. Remember little ‘unnecessary-to-the-storyline’ Ani? As poor acting goes, this little Sith Lord-to-be easily tops the list. Understandably, Jake Lloyd now looks back and hates his prior role, but that doesn’t excuse his awful acting skills.

Child actors and actresses tend to be incredibly poor at what they do, which is almost a given – yet it’s always entertaining to laugh at them slightly. I mean, looking at certain individuals, you can see a huge amount of change – Radcliffe and Watson, for example – however, with others… not so much. I mean, look at Jake Lloyd and Macaulay Culkin? What on Earth happened to them? Perhaps exposing children to fame might be a pretty bad idea. Who’d have thought?

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