Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Making Child's Play of the Movies

Two recent films which either involve or directly target children have been much ballyhooed, but in the case of one of them, Chicken Little, it is hard to see why. Chicken Little is yet another animated version of a classic story, only this time, for good measure the story of Chicken Little has been taken a further step--- by combining it with a plot line from ET, War of the Worlds, and even an old Star Trek episode ( "The Trouble with Tribbles"). There are the usual elements in this movie: 1) our hero is small, and not taken seriously after his "sky is falling" gaff. Even his father seems ashamed of him; 2) when the plot lacks punch bring in old rock and roll songs and pump up the volume; 3) let the underdog (and under-achieving) hero finally win something, and then 4) he is emboldened to save the world in the process. Oh yes, did I mention a budding romance between the ugly duckling and Chicken Little? Now this film, at least in its initial p.r. was advertized as classic Disney, and very funny. But in fact it lacks the sort of humour of films like Alladin and The Emperor's New Groove, not least because it lacks Robin Williams. This is hardly a new classic, and in fact the War of the World's scenes are probably too intense for small children. Disney has done much better than this in the past. There is finally, also some odd inconsistency to the appearance of the movie. Whereas as the main characters and much of the look seems three -D, parts of the background scenes however appear to be quite flat and non-descript. It is unfortunate.

Of a whole different order is "The Dreamer" a story set here in Lexington and Versailles Kentucky, and based to some degree on a true story, of a horse who broke and leg, and yet healed and came back to win a major race. Lest we write this sort of rags to riches script off as trite or too familiar (a female version of Seabiscuit?), this movie is carried by some very strong performances by Dakota Fanning (of 'Because of Winn Dixie' fame), Kurt Russell as her Dad the horse trainer, Kris Kristofferson as Kurt's father, and there are also nice lesser parts played by Elizabeth Shue and David Morse. This movie has the real pathos of a family struggling to survive financially and yet wanting to nurture their only child's dreams. It is beautifully filmed , and is certainly a movie any and all families should take their children to see. The inter-personal dynamics in the family seem real and are well developed, and the story line, while rather predictable is in the feel good category. There may not be a better film out there for families in the last several months of this year--- unless it is "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe".


Matt said...

in response to a review of a children's movie called "the dreamer" i offer a poem that was inspired by a classroom presentation given by n.t. wright on thursday, nov. 17 at davidson college in north carolina:

i danced
and laughed
and was a g.i. joe

got too excited
and scaled the danger wall

dribbled a basketball
and entertained myself,


because i didn't know any better
or perhaps because i knew God better

back then.

i desperately desire
to still be that boy

i still am that boy

but no longer
do the adults laugh:

how cute
how wonderful
how impressive:

praise God!

now it's

how loud
how aggrivativing
how irresponsible:

grow up!

no longer joy
the adults sneer
their way into the grave

burning the bridge back home,
back to heaven,
into the new earth,
stricking deadly matches
with their checkbooks
and textbooks,
business afternoons
and starbucks coffeespoons,
measuring out humanity

with darwin
with devil
with death

but not with The Divine.

Ben Witherington said...

Cool, I am sure Tom was great....


Ben W.

Matt said...

tom was incredible; after what has been in some ways a dsicouraging first semester for me at candler, tom was used mightily by god to really solidify, seal, and reiterate my calling, which is to be an NT scholar like you guys are. one of the NT profs at candler has been particularly discouraging, and i have doubted my call a lot this semester.

praise God for people like you, wright, keener, hays, and others, whose work has and does keep me afloat

matt varnell