Good child actors are something of a rare commodity, with good reason: it’s a lot to expect from a kid. They have to have the intelligence to read, understand, and memorize dialogue. They need the maturity to show up on set and actually put in a day’s work, while other kids their age are playing video games with their friends. And most importantly, they need to be able to convincingly pretend to be someone else. There’s a perfect storm of temperament, talent, and luck that results in a particularly good child actor.
Most of the time, you see kids basically playing a version of themselves. They’re hams and they love attention, so it’s not exactly a huge stretch for them to get in front of the camera and be their big, boisterous selves. But then there are some that can really play with the big boys, so to speak. They hold their own with the adult actors and sometimes even steal the spotlight with their raw talent. So every time you sit through a film with a kid who has a serious case of child actor-itis, think of the people on this list and remember that sometimes, when the stars align, kids actually can turn in tour-de-force performances.
10. Christina Ricci – Addams Family Values
Most child actors really struggle with any comedy other than juvenile, in-your-face humor. That’s why Christina Ricci, the adolescent queen of sardonic wit, is such a breath of fresh air. She elevates deadpan delivery to an art form in both of the Addams Family movies, but especially in Addams Family Values, where she’s given more to work with.
Can you even imagine how horrible it would have been if there was another little girl playing Wednesday? How cringe-inducingly awful some of her lines would have been? They truly lucked out with Ricci, who was seemingly born to inhabit the role of everyone’s favorite macabre princess. You only have to think of the scene at camp where Wednesday, cast as Pocahontas, sets fire to the First Thanksgiving to realize the sheer genius that girl brought to the table.
This article was first posted on June 27, 2013