Idol Chatter

New York Times movie reviewer A. O. Scott makes a strange sort of case for this top six family-friendly films of the season. While he thinks “Enchanted” is pitch-perfect for his third grade daughter–it’s as if Disney tailor-made it for her–this pitch-perfect quality is exactly his reason for not recommending it as the only real film out there for young kids right now.
To what movies does he recommend that you “take the kids” and “don’t feel guilty” instead?
1. Sweeney Todd. It may indeed be a slasher film with “geysers of arterial blood,” but during the film, his son apparently turned to him and said “I’m loving this”–both the musical aspect and the fact that he recognized characters from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Harry Potter.”
2. Charlie Wilson’s War. According to Scott: “It’s appealing [to kids] in part because it’s a grown-up movie of a kind that used to be more common. It’s brisk, funny and frank about sex and politics, demonstrating the ease and worldliness that are among the most fascinating and mysterious features of adulthood.” Just be prepared Mom and Dad, Scott advises. After the film his son had some questions, “but they had nothing to do with naked congressmen in hot tubs or cocaine or extramarital dalliances, all of which feature prominently in that movie. ‘Why did the Russians invade Afghanistan in the first place?’ he wanted to know.”
3. Persepolis. This film version of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir series of the same, enchanted Scott’s kids as much as the novels themselves have always enchanted my students (I’ve taught them for the last three years running.) He says: “If your children can read just-right books, surely they can read subtitles too. Death and sexuality figure in the story, but those themes are handled with such wit and delicacy that ‘Persepolis’ is more likely to inspire interesting conversations than awkward questions or uncomfortable feelings.”
4. Juno. As for “Persepolis” on the sex issue, the same goes for taking your kids to see “Juno.” Scott wishes the film’s humor “were just a bit less lighthearted,” but “the movie’s spirit is sweet and smart and youthful, and the relationships it depicts feel very tender and real. If it provokes you to have that long-dreaded talk with your son or daughter, so much the better.”

5. The Kite Runner. Like “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which may provoke questions about Afghanistan, “The Kite Runner” is another means to spark your kids to “explore the painful history of Afghanistan,” and better yet, it’s a film that features two children.
6. The Great Debaters. This one may be the most obvious choice of all for a family trip to the theater. Scott says that this film is a good history lesson about “the American South in the era of Jim Crow, in a rousing (if somewhat formulaic) sports movie about a tough coach and his team of overachieving underdogs,” and though “there are some intimations of sex and violence,” “nothing that is shocking or out of place, and the performances, especially by some of the younger actors, are examples of the excellence that is the movie’s theme.”
Click here for more of Scott’s suggestions and to read his full article and argument.

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