News Column

Not another family flick [Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA)]

August 12, 2013


Family Film Fatigue has set in at my house.

In the past eight months, my wife seen "The Croods," "Wreck-It Ralph," "Monsters University" and, most recently, "Despicable Me 2" - with our 6-year-old daughter.

As for old dad, he cleverly devise other plans on the nights of these animated outings. Those plans usually involve leaving town for several hours.

These are the kinds of movies adults are forced to see when you have a kid. Many of the animated computer-generated movies have been quite good - the "Toy Story" series, "Finding Nemo," "Up" and a couple of others are movies we watched and loved even without the young'un.

The summer of 2013, however, has been a pixel too far. In fact, we fled town over the weekend just so our daughter wouldn't hear all of her friends blabbering on about "Planes." If anybody brings up "Smurfs 2" around my kid, I'll cuss a blue streak until I am blue.

For the most part, animated films still do very well at the box office, but the genre may have gotten as old and hoary this summer as Papa Smurf. "Turbo" and "Smurfs 2" did not open as strong as expected, prompting a wag from a website called to tell another site that, "Parents and kids have been driving the box office for the past month, so at some point we're going to see some family-film fatigue."

Of course, by the time you read this, "Planes" has probably already made two zillion dollars. If so, just ignore that whole fatigue thing I was talking about.

Many friends of mine with kids are still thrilled about the latest masterpiece from Disney/Pixar/DreamWorks.

(Side note: Did you know that, in the movie biz, successful film franchises are referred to as "tentpoles"? That's because they are expected to prop up a studio's bottom line. Hey, after "Cars" and "Planes," maybe Pixar should just call its next movie "Tentpole," the story of a poor, misunderstood pup-tent pole that dreams of becoming president.)

My friend Hillary Thompson of Roanoke has seen about every animated feature this summer with her two young sons and she couldn't wait for "Planes" to take flight.

"Most importantly, we enjoy the time together as a family, sitting quietly and getting lost in a fun adventure," she said in an eloquent post on my Facebook page.

"I find the animated movies bright, funny (love the adult humor), and in general they have good life lessons ('Epic' and 'The Lorax' - 'take care of the Earth;' 'Monsters University' and many others - 'be yourself;' 'Turbo' - 'go for your dreams.')"

She has another reason for going to the movies with her sons.

"During that two hours, no one asks me for anything more than 'can you pass the popcorn?'" she said.

Thompson has even been taking her boys to the "Build and Grow" clinics at Lowe's, where kids can build movie-themed projects, such as treasure chests, cars, trucks and other toys. Over the weekend, she and her sons planned to build a "Dusty" character from "Planes." (More info at

Thompson and my friend Cassie Pillis Gent both told me that they don't like some of the on-screen word choices - words such as "hate," "idiot" and "stupid."

Those words are not family-approved around my house, either, although my kid has heard worse from her parents.

I also worry that the constant, fast-paced, in-your-face, borderline violent action in the CGI movies - especially 3-D versions - might be chewing away at my 6-year-old's attention span. Then again, I am an older parent who did not grow up with computer- generated animation, so I am out of step with many younger parents who, incredibly, were in elementary school when "Toy Story" came out.

Because she has such lovable codgers for parents, my daughter probably sees more old-fashioned musicals and other classic family movies than most rising second-graders watch.

She recently sat through all of "The Music Man," totally mesmerized by the songs, dancing and snappy dialogue. She loves "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music."

That poor child. What a friendless nerd she will be!

No, they really don't make movies like those anymore. I can't remember the last time I watched a new family movie with real, live, human actors in it.

Then again, years from now, some fuddy-duddy parent will be watching some new kids' movie - probably on their Google glasses or on some 3-dimensional hologram screen built by cyborgs - and they will moan that Hollywood doesn't make old-fashioned kids' movies like "Toy Story" anymore.

Everything will be OK - as long as the future has popcorn in it.

Ralph Berrier Jr.'s column runs every other Monday in Extra.dw

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