July 11, 2008

The Oddness of Parenting

And now, something a little different.....

As a parent, one is of necessity deeply involved (or should be) in the entertainment material which your children consume. This means that I have seen, or in some cases heard (driving the van, kids in back watching movie) many childrens movies again and again. The wacky thing is that you end up having favorite movies and opinions about this media made for kids, which I often end up feeling wacky about, because it just seems perverse. I only take comfort in the fact that other parents probably understand where I'm coming from, whereas those without children largely think you're crazy.

So, a few of what I consider the more memorable picks and pans from the pantheon of children's entertainment I am forced as a father to consume:

The Incredibles:
One of my all time favorites. One of those really good childrens movies that's working marvelously on an adult level and kid level at the same time. They put marital conflict, childrearing challenges, money woes, career and relationship issues along with a dollop of existential debate about mediocrity and achievement into a great looking action flick. A complete winner.

Curious George:
Oh dear God, it was an ordeal to sit through. I owned and read the Curious George books as a child and like most other kids, I was enchanted by them. When the movie came out, I was game to see the big screen adaptation of this wonderful childhood favorite, and I just knew it was going to be special to watch it with my own kids. It was special all right. Especially dull. It was the exact opposite of the Incredibles in effect. It was designed for the kids, period. They enjoyed it, but if you were an adult, sitting through it was deadly boring. The best part about it is the beginning with its opening montage of George and the Jack Johnson soundtrack playing, which perfectly captures George's spirit. After that, it was pure torture. Parents, you are duly warned.

I took my kids to the drive-in to see this movie, and though I actually enjoyed the movie more or less, I could not help but be creeped out by the film almost throughout the entire movie. I'm sorry, but conceptually, I just got a problem with the idea of rats and food, and this movie is all about a rat that wants to be a chef. The movie intermittently creeped me out everytime they had a scene where the rat star was up in the middle of some food preparation. I was just like, heck no! But I was just really outdone near the end, when the rat has to call on his rat family of hundreds to help him cook the food for the restaurants patrons and they come flooding in their thousands into the kitchen and they are all up in the people's FOOD! I asked my wife about this later. Didn't that bother you? But she thought it was charming. The sweetest, smartest, sexiest clean freak I know. Go figure.

Flushed Away
Charming is a good word for this one. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and there is a little kick in the idea of Hugh Jackman (Wolverine in the X-Men) voicing the character of Roddy, the slightly timid but brave rat hero of the film. Kate Winslet was an excellent Rita. What I enjoyed in particular though was the villain, Toad, voiced by Ian McKellan (a villain in the X-Men, Magneto). In his introductory scene, he has a monologue and then a repartee with Roddy that is hilariously madcap. I laughed so hard I nearly cried (I tell this to people without small children and they laugh....nervously). This one is a lot of fun, with singing slugs , adventure and the droll english sense of humour in the monty python tradition, but funny (isn't it interesting how humour is cultural? Monty Python is a comedic dynasty, but most of it gets not a laugh from me, but the brits find it hilarious while I usually don't get it)

Another thing that comes with parenting territory is noticing odd stuff like the fact that in a large number of the Disney films, they kill off the mother or she is dead and simply not present, and this is a consistent theme in Disney movies for years. Think about it: Bambi, Finding Nemo, Brother Bear, Beauty and the Beast, etc. I don't know whether to consider it sinister or just lack of creativity. But its odd.

Soooo, those are a few of my picks. So what about the rest of you lot? Am I the only parent out here that develops a real interest and opinion about these childrens films? Have you got your favorites too? Or has being a parent simply made me an oddball?