The good, the so-so, and the pretty awful - FamilyEducation

The good, the so-so, and the pretty awful

January 07,2010
I don't know about your family, but we watched a lot of children's movies over winter break. There was a time when we hardly watched any movies as a family. For years L. wouldn't watch movies period--something about the loud sound, the unpredictability of the plot, the confusing merging of reality and fantasy, just upset him too much. But this past spring and summer he began to let the magic of movies into his life, little by little. He still doesn't like to watch films at the movie theater, unless he's already previewed the story at home first and liked the film, but we've been able to watch quite a few films at home--not all good films, mind you, but films all the same. In fact, the challenge these days is finding a film that both T. and L. will agree on--a very, very tough feat, and one that has resulted in numerous heated showdowns both at Blockbuster and at home. But when you have one boy and one girl, and the boy is nine and possesses very particular and narrow and sometimes arbitrary rules and regulations regarding what is acceptable and your girl in almost six and likes thumb-sized fairies and Care Bears and animated feel-good flicks, a trip to the video store can be a truly frazzling experience. Here's the lowdown on what we did watch--four winners, one so-so flick starring talking puppies, and one truly awful one--by my standards that is. Horton Hears a Who: L. watched this at school last year, and T. got a copy for Christmas, so we were able to all watch it again at home. Personally, I love this film--I love the colorful, endearing Dr. Seussian world, and the message, one that encourages children and grown-ups to step aside from stodgy preconception about life and the universe. What could be better than a film about a world within a world within a world, and a rhyming script that's so pleasing to the ear? Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium: One of those winning films that is satisfying for both children and adults--no sitting squirming in your seat while talking animals do ridiculous things and talk about their butts (see last entry below). The movie is a tear-jerker, and the topic of death and dying is a part of the script, but it is handled so sensitively and beautifully, and provided you wait until your kids are old enough, the film actually provides a useful way to discuss those difficult concepts. It's just the type of film I love--about magic and wonder seen through a child's eyes. And it has Dustin Hoffman in it, so who can argue with that? Five Children and It: Another winner. I found this film completely by accident when I dropped a glove at Blockbuster, knelt down to pick it up, and came eye-to-eye with the DVD case--I didn't even know there was a movie version of this beloved book. I love all of E. Nesbit's books, so much so that I was worried the film would be a huge let-down. I did have to let go of some expectations, and it reminded me quite a bit of the film adaptation of The Railway Children, but all in all it was a charming and refreshingly unassuming film--just the kind of film I think about when I think about children and movies. Mary Poppins: Not a new one to our house--we've watched it once before, but a film we could all enjoy. We managed to get the kids to agree on it after having spent twenty minutes overruling L.'s choices and ten minutes diffusing the situation after T. suggested three Care Bears movies in a row. We really needed Mary Poppins to mediate after that, and it was nice to hear the children singing "Supercalifragilicious..." together long after the film was done. In the category of Films With Talking Animals That Make Adults Wince, there are two entries: Santa Buddies: A Christmas gift to both kids--perfect for the long car ride from MD to NC a couple of weeks ago. I'm always wary of Christmas films for kids, (I don't like the film version of The Polar Express) but this was pretty harmless overall, if you can stand the talking puppies beyond the first thirty minutes or so. I did like the ending scene and the glimpses of Christmases around the world, and the message about the importance of spreading the Christmas spirit, and the kids loved the film, which is what counts, isn't it? Sometimes, that is. G-Force: No, the kids liking a film is definitely NOT what always counts. I really, really, really, really, did NOT want to rent this for the kids, but we were desperate and it was the one film at the video store that both kids agreed they could watch together. In the end, watching the film was just as painful as I thought it would be, and it had all the requisite potty humor and butt jokes kids find so entertaining but oh was I glad when it was over. Still, it ranked slightly higher on my list than Space Chimps, which I saw with T. kind of by accident (I thought it would have REAL chimps) at the Free Family Movie Festival this past summer, and which still gives me nightmares on occasion. To her credit, T. didn't like G-Force, and L. focused so much on the gadgetry and FBI/spy plot that most of what made the movie truly insufferable went right over his head. But I'd rather not watch it again anytime soon, thank you very much. I'll take a spoonful of sugar any day over night-vision goggle-wearing, talking guinea pigs.