Monday, June 13, 2011

My Immature Movie Phase

I'm starting to worry about my closet. It may not get me to Narnia, but it seems to have a portal to somewhere. I reached in this morning and grabbed the first t-shirt handy -- and it was one I don't remember owning. It's a promotional shirt for the launch of the original iBook, back when they were candy-colored. I never owned one of those, so I didn't get the shirt with a computer. I probably got it at work when I was doing high-tech PR, and a couple of my co-workers at one job used to work for Apple, but I still don't remember getting it, and if I haven't worn it in so long I forgot that I had it, why is it in the front of the closet with all the things I tend to wear more often? I need to get back on my decluttering project because who knows what I might find?

I must be in a rather immature or childish phase right now because in addition to mostly reading young adult or middle grade books lately, I seem to be watching kids' movies. There was nothing on TV over the weekend, so I thought I'd do a movie night and catch up on HBO OnDemand, but the only movies I found interesting were the ones for kids.

First, there was Nanny McPhee Returns. I loved the first one in a big way and was excited about the sequel, but then the reviews were so awful and made it sound like something I wouldn't like, so I didn't get around to seeing it in the theater. Well, now I wonder if the reviewers saw a special edition because I didn't recognize the movie from the reviews. The reviews went on about how the movie was mostly "poo jokes." Well, I have a very low tolerance for that kind of humor, and I thought the one scene that involved barnyard gross-out was hilarious. In this one, Nanny McPhee comes to the aid of a mother trying to run a farm, raise her three children and keep a job that helps pay for the farm while her husband is away at war. Her crazy life gets even crazier when her spoiled niece and nephew are sent from the city to the safety of the country and clash with her kids. To make matters worse, her boss (Maggie Smith) seems to have some kind of dementia and requires constant supervision and her brother-in-law is trying to get his hands on the farm. I still don't know which of the movies I like best. The first one was more of a romance and it had lots of Colin Firth as opposed to a cameo of Ewan McGregor. But there was Maggie Smith being absolutely adorable and a WWII setting, and then the revelation that linked the sequel to the first movie actually made me weepy. And I still want to be Emma Thompson when I grow up, or maybe get to be her best friend. She's definitely on my fantasy dinner party list.

Then there was How to Train Your Dragon. I'd seen this one before at a friend's house, but it's hard to hear the finer points of dialogue when watching with a room full of people. A nerdy young Viking in a village beset by dragon attacks can't seem to please his warrior father -- until he has an unexpected encounter with a dragon, realizes that they've got the wrong ideas about dragons, and uses that information to shine in his training to be a dragon fighter -- until the time comes when he has to convince his father and the village of the truth about dragons. This is probably the closest Dreamworks has come to doing a Pixar because there was far more heart and far less cynicism and attempting to be cool and edgy than you usually get from a Dreamworks animated film. There is the weird thing of a Viking village in which all the adults have heavy Scottish accents and all the kids sound like they're from southern California, but otherwise it's a sweet, funny, exciting movie, and as someone of Nordic and Scottish descent, I found a lot of the Viking and Scottish/Viking jokes to be hilarious.

On the other end of the Dreamworks spectrum was the latest Shrek movie, Shrek Ever After. I've enjoyed the previous Shrek movies, even the much maligned third one, but this one was borderline awful. There were some fun touches, but the overall tone was awfully bitter. On his children's first birthday, Shrek is discontented with his life and missing the old days when he was a fearsome ogre instead of a husband, dad and local celebrity whose once frightening roar is now considered entertainment for children's parties. He makes a deal with Rumplestiltskin, trading one day of his life as a baby that he'll hardly miss for one day as an ogre the way things used to be. But the day Rumplestiltskin chooses is the day Shrek was born, which undoes everything that happened because of him, including rescuing Fiona and breaking her curse. The only way out of the contract is true love's kiss, but the Fiona in this world has never met him, and he has to woo his wife all over again by the end of the day or he'll disappear from existence. I like the idea of winning the wife over again. That's an interesting way to have some romantic tension even after a happily ever after, and I think I'll have to add it to my literary bucket list. But I had a hard time getting past Shrek's monumental level of whining and selfishness. These movies have always been a bit warped and twisted, but in a fun way. Having a husband tell his wife that his life was better before he met her, when she was locked in a tower and under a curse, is just mean and ugly. The writing was also pretty lazy, relying on the soundtrack to tell a story. Why write a scene when you can do a montage to a pop song? I started to snicker every time I recognized the strains of a familiar song because I knew we'd be skipping over the next plot or character development, with the song filling in the gap. I'm glad I didn't waste money on this one at the theater. It actually left me pretty depressed because I've been feeling a sense of loss from not having had a family, and so seeing a movie about someone not appreciating what he had in such a huge way was a real downer. I know parenting can be a challenge and there probably are days when you wouldn't mind having a little time the way your life used to be, but I wouldn't think your children's first birthday would be one of those days.

There's something wrong about a supposedly funny children's animated movie that requires a phone call with Mom and a marathon of The Office to purge it from your brain so you don't sink into a deep depression.

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