07 January 2011

Children's Entertainment Center of Virtues

I was thinking the other day that there are some really good movies and TV shows out there. ("Duh, Jessie.") No, I mean really good -- like morally good. Not the stuff they sell at Mardel. Real, secular movies, that happen to contain fabulous lessons. Lessons I want my daughter to learn. But they're not kids movies. ("But Ratatouille is a kids...") No, it's not. Pixar movies are not kids movies, are they? Are they? ("....No.") Okay then.

1.) Ratatouille (2007)
This might be my favorite Pixar movie. I'm the only one, aren't I? Of course it's very hard to pick a favorite Pixar movie, but this one really touched me. Remy (the rat) wants be a chef, even though no one thinks rats can be chefs. Linguini's mother (as I recall?) wants him to be a chef, even though it's clear that's not where his talents lie. Anton Ego (the food critic) is a jerk because he has forgotten the simple pleasures of his youth. And somehow, like magic, food pulls everything together and works everything out. Remy achieves his dream, Anton mellows out, and Linguini finds his true calling. I feel like that's a really overlooked part of the movie, but it's my favorite part. Linguini is good at being a waiter. He is a genuinely talented waiter, and he loves being one. I want Lucy to know that that's okay.

2.) 50 First Dates (2004)
This is an Adam Sandler movie. It is, therefore, full of ridiculous, inappropriate humor. Visual gags, bodily function jokes -- the works. But beneath all that? It's a story about true love. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, Adam Sandler plays a guy who meets Drew Barrymore's character and falls for her immediately. Only one problem -- the next time they meet, she doesn't remember him. Turns out her memory was damaged in an accident, and she essentially resets at the end of every day. Adam Sandler can't shake her, though; he's in love. But by the end of the movie, it's clear that he's not just in love -- he chooses an entire lifetime of real, sacrificial love, day in and day out. The last scene of this movie makes me cry every time. It's beautiful. Go watch it.

3.) Accepted (2006)
So you thought 50 First Dates was inappropriate? You might want to skip Accepted. It's a teen boy comedy, along the lines of American Pie (which I haven't actually seen...). But beneath that layer of gunk (although I will admit that some of it is hilarious), lies the truth about college: it's not for everyone, and it doesn't make you better than the non-college people. There are lots of ways to learn what you need/want to know. Sometimes that means college, sometimes it doesn't. And regardless of the path you choose, do make sure you're choosing. Decide what you want to know, and go learn it! (And despite the layer of gunk, this is one of my go-to feel-good movies. Really.)

4.) Hairspray (2007)
Oh, where do I even start here? This movie has probably recently replaced You've Got Mail as my favorite movie. In fact, let's just go ahead and make that official. Hairspray the musical is my favorite movie. There. This movie has so many great morals that it needs its own list.

Awesome things about Hairspray (2007):

a.) Tracy starts the movie with a wonderful attitude and it doesn't let up. She's not the typical "ugly" girl who is actually a hot girl in disguise, nor does she need help feeling good about herself. It's a given. She loves herself and she loves to dance. Marvelous!

b.) Mr. and Mrs. Turnblad are soooo in love. It should be noted here, for those who have not seen it, that Mr. Turnblad is played by Christopher Walken and Mrs. Turnblad is played by John Travolta in a fat suit. Yep. And they are soooo in love. Mrs. Turnblad has low self-esteem when the movie starts, but it's clear that Mr. Turnblad is not to blame. Their song "(You're) Timeless to Me" is just so sweet!

c.) Penny and Seaweed's relationship. The movie is set in 1962, but this interracial couple doesn't seem to notice.

d.) Overall body image awesomeness. Tracy knows she can dance just as well as the skinny girls. Miss Maybelle gets to sing the song "Big, Blonde and Beautiful". And Mrs. Turnblad, although initially unsure of herself, learns to triumphantly declare in the final song, "So if you don't like the way I look, well I just don't give a damn!"

e.) ...which brings us to the finale -- the final song, "You Can't Stop the Beat". This is on Lucy's YouTube playlist, and I always stop what I'm doing to watch it when it comes on. Tracy gets to dance, Penny and Seaweed declare their love to the world, Mrs. Turnblad lets us know that she does indeed love herself (and gets to do a shimmy-shake in a sparkly dress), black kids and white kids are dancing side by side, and all is right with the world. I know this is going to sound crazy, but the finale makes me think about heaven and Jesus. Eventually, everything will be right. It's already started, and you can't stop it!

(I'm about to start crying -- again -- so let me stop here and compose myself. .... Okay.)

Honorable mentions go to:

1.) Home Alone 1 & 2 (1990, 1992)
I have unabashed love for these movies. I watch them every Christmas season. But as I was growing up, I was always acutely aware that Kevin (the main character kid) was a horrible brat who really shouldn't be encouraged. Or so I thought my parents thought. But as I was watching these again this last year, with the perspective of someone who has a toddler, I thought, you know what? That's completely wrong. Kevin is awesome. He is extremely resourceful. He's brave, even in the face of fear and danger. He's kind (ready to give to strangers). He's willing to confront his fears and ignorance in order to get to know the "scary" adults in both movies. And he has a strong sense of justice, which is where the back-talking comes in. His parents really aren't very fair to him -- each time he mouths off to them, he's right! It's only his delivery that's undesirable. So I say, carry on, Kevin McCallister! May many more generations of children learn from your excellent example!

2.) Once (2006)
I didn't enjoy this movie as much as I expected to, or as much as my husband did, but it's still very good. The thing about this movie that I find so beautiful and perfect is how sometimes you find a soulmate, but you still have to walk away. The two main characters are drawn to each other, and the music they make together is amazing. But circumstances aren't perfect -- after a weekend of musical collaboration, they must go their separate ways. A good lesson to keep in mind.

3.) Doctor Who (1963-present)
And Doctor Who gets an honorable mention for teaching us that intellect and romance will always triumph over brute force and cynicism. Also, I love how the Doctor loves humans. He pretty much always has something positive to say about humanity in general. It's good to remind ourselves of our good traits, I think.

Anyone have anything to add? Any obscure and/or not-really-for-kids movies and/or TV with fabulous moral compasses that I need to know about?

[Edit: See this post for a long, heartfelt review of the one I knew I was forgetting.]


Norman said...

The Doctor: Who's she?
Sardick: Nobody important.
The Doctor: "Nobody important". Blimey, that's amazing. D'you know, in 900 years of time and space I've never met anyone who wasn't important before.

The Doctor: The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things or make them unimportant.

Those two statements alone are all it should take to make a lifetime fan of the Doctor out of everyone.

JemJam said...

I finally watched Ratatouille on Christmas day & again a week later. I really loved it! I personally am a fan of Patton Oswald (no surprise there, I'm sure) and I have wanted to be a chef for so long in my life. I have seen nothing else on that list. I liked that there was a price to pay, but they made it all work out in the end.

I like Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It teaches children that if they are bratty, they go to the furnace...

Joel said...

"and if they try to stop us, Seaweed/ we'll call the NAACP!"

Words to live by. I love that movie so much.

Home Alone, though... maybe when Francesca gets older; right now I still find dear little Kevin deeply obnoxious.