Friday, June 04, 2010

Those darned kids movies

After the weakest May in my moviegoing memory, the theaters come back to life with two films I plan to see this weekend - the Judd Apatow-produced Get Him to the Greek and the horror flick Splice, starring Sarah Polley, which means it will have some degree of intelligence.

There is one movie coming out this weekend, however, that I would never see - not even if I had a kid. And no, I don't mean Killers, although I wouldn't subject a kid to that either. I'm talking about Marmaduke.

I turned up my nose at the movie even before I saw one frame from it. I hate to pre-judge films, but the director's name alone was enough to make me roll over and play dead - it's Tom Dey, the hack behind films like Shanghai Noon and Failure to Launch, which are nondescript at best and unwatchable at worst.

Then I read the review by Christy Lemire, one of the film critics of the Associated Press. She describes one scene thusly:

We know we're in trouble early when Marmaduke (voiced byOwen Wilson) climbs into bed with his owners, Phil (Lee Pace) and Debbie (Judy Greer), and promptly passes gas, prompting one of many exasperated, sitcommy cries of "Marma-DUKE!"

I know, I know, kids think farts are funny. "Pull my finger" and all that. Har-de-har. But c'mon - when a movie fills the air with flatulence, it might as well be in Smell-O-Vision.  Fart jokes are a clear sign of a movie bereft of imagination. It's lazy writing that offers nothing to kids other than a cheap laugh that any fool could get with the old armpit routine. Raise your hand if you're sure.

What bothers me even more than the fart jokes are parents who take their children to any piece of junk movie with bright, pretty colors and people who fall over each other. Sure, the kid may like it. Young kids aren't very discriminating. But parents should be. It drives me up the wall when I hear some parent say "Well, it wasn't very good, but little Joey liked it."

So let me get this straight - it's OK for a movie to be lame as long as a kid likes it? What does that say about us as parents? Isn't that essentially the same principle as feeding kids a bag of cotton candy instead of even a pizza?

If/when I ever have kids, I don't intend to subject them to junk just so they'll be quiet for 90 minutes. That can be done just as easily with a quality movie. If I had a child now, I would tell him or her to wait a couple of weeks until Toy Story 3 comes out.

I know not every movie can be Pixar quality. But Bridge to Terabithia quality would be nice. Or even Diary of a Wimpy Kid quality. The latter may not offer much for adults, but it at least tries to have some imagination. I want a movie that would make my son or daughter draw pictures immediately after seeing it - not just make them laugh mindlessly.

Maybe that makes me a curmudgeon. And maybe this is all too easy for me to write, not having had to deal with the Puss in Boots "Pleeeeeeeeze?" expression, or, on the other end of the scale, the temper tantrum.  But I would want my kids to have the best, and that includes the movies they watch.

Lemire puts is beautifully at the end her review: "The 7-year-olds in the audience won't know or care. But they deserve better."


David M. Allen M.D. said...

I totally agree that fart jokes haven't been funny since they were first used in "Blazing Saddles,and personally I did not find that scene as hilarious as most people seem to think. I've basically stopped going to all comedies that aren't political satire or written by Woody Allen.

Bathroom humor used to be audacious when it was verbotten. I have no moral objection to it; I just think most of it now is not particularly funny if not a downright bore!

Scott Copeland said...

It helps to expose your children to better movies. My oldest is a big Beatles fan because she saw A HArd Day's Night at an early age. My next oldest loves the Marx Brothers.
Yesterday, my kids and I watched a 50-year-old Disney film (Toby Tyler) and they thoroughly enjoyed it. There are better options than Marmaduke.