January 04, 2010
Family Film Blogging, PG-13 Edition: Avatar, The Blind Side, and Sherlock Holmes
Posted by Christine Hurt

So, we've seen a few movies this winter break.  I will spare you a run-down of Alvin and the Chipmunks:  The Squeakquel, which is exactly what you would expect it to be, no more and no less.  However, for the sake of the older child, I have seen 3 movies steered at an older crowd, and they have slightly more complex appeal.

Avatar.  I had seen the preview to this and actually said, "I have no interest in seeing that."  But then our sixth graders and her two friends absolutely had to see it in opening night, in 3-D.  So, somebody had to sit through it.  However, I really enjoyed it.  Yes, the plot sort of goes where you think it will go, and yes, it is a mash-up of Dances With Wolves and a lot of other movies you've already seen.  But it's still great.  Sort of like how Star Wars was great in spite of the story, dialogue, acting, etc.  Now that every other movie is coming out in 3-D, it's hard to see the attraction, until you see a movie that was really made for 3-D, which this one is.  The first preview started at 9:00 p.m. and we walked out at 12:15 a.m., but I could have seen it again.  The big forces in today's world are all represented:  Science, Capitalism, the Military and Nature.  Guess who wins?  If you haven't seen it, put your skepticism aside and go.  As for kids, it really isn't meant for kids, even though the movie was featured on Happy Meal bags for some reason.  It is pretty violent, and the human character likes to say PG-13 words over and over and over.  The sixth grade girls liked it though because it's really a love story.

The Blind Side.  We have an eight-year-old who is crazy about football, but we knew we had to see it first before we could take him.  Good call.  There were definitely a couple of scenes that are worth waiting for the DVD to skip over.  We had both read the excellent book by Michael Lewis and were hoping that the movie didn't ruin the story.  It didn't.  We really enjoyed the movie and thought it kept the heart of the story.  Yes, it's all sweet and mushy, but it's a feel-good kind of story.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's an excerpt from the book in the NYT Magazine -- Michael Oher, a boy who literally had no home and lived on friends' couches and barely went to school, lucks into Briarcrest Christian school in Memphis.  However, he still has no reliable source of food, clothes or shelter until a family there takes him into their home.  The mom turns his life around so that he can qualify to play football in college.  Oher is now on the Baltimore Ravens and up for Rookie of the Year.  The movie has a few scenes that try to depict the grittiness of Michael's life before he met up with the Tuohys, and I think they do a good job.  But no, the real focus is on Michael's life after he begins school and meets up with his new family.  Again, don't be a skeptic and enjoy the great story for what it is.

Sherlock Holmes.  Our sixth grader wanted to see this movie, so here we went again.  The movie is a great romp, and of course Robert Downey, Jr. makes the whole movie.  I have to confess never having read any Sherlock Holmes book or even having seen any other book based on the character.  I think this put me somewhat behind because I spent too much brain power thinking about who the "mystery character" was, when everyone else knew it was Moriarty.  Other than that, I really liked the movie.  Some quibbles.  To get into the super mind of Sherlock Holmes, the camera does a lot of freeze-frame, slow motion, instant replay, etc.  This got a little distracting.  Also, I'm never a fan of "brilliant deductive reasoning" that actually hinges both on powers of observation and a huge body of knowledge that the audience does not have.  So, is it really an "Aha" moment for the audience when Sherlock Holmes tells us that the flower we all saw was a rhododendron, and we all know that that flower secretes yadda, yadda, yadda that in certain circumstances can do blah, blah, blah.  It's a different kind of mystery revelation, but can't be a "how did I miss that?" moment when there's a lot to miss.  The movie also involves the now-obligatory secret society Temple of the Four Orders, which seems ho-hum after the Da Vinci Code, et al. and National Treasure, et al.  All in all, though, it was very enjoyable and ok for older kids who don't get scared too easily.

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