The Truman Show

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is an insurance salesman who gradually realizes that everyone around him is part of an elaborate “show,” and that every aspect of his life has been orchestrated and broadcast throughout the world. Truman’s “ideal” suburban community is an elaborate set, his wife and best friend are actors. Sponsors pay for the show by having the participants praise their products. And all of it is presided over by Christof (Ed Harris), who leans into his microphone to give direction: “Cue the sun!”

A thought-provoking story and outstanding performances (including a sensitive and subtle portrayal by Carrey) make this is a very worthwhile movie for families to watch together. Teenagers will relate to Truman’s sense (correct in this case) that he is constantly being watched, and that the world is organized around him. While the satire may be above the heads of younger children, there is a still lot to discuss. They may enjoy the clever Free Truman! web site created by Paramount to further perpetuate the illusion.

Younger school-age children will be interested by the fascination that Truman’s “real” story has for a world-wide audience with an insatiable hunger for something to watch on television, at the same time rooting for him to find a way out and wanting him to stay so they can keep watching him. Families can talk about how Truman figures out that something is wrong and whether it was fair for Christof to raise Truman that way. They can also talk to children about why television is so interesting, whether they would want to watch someone who did not know he was on television, and what Truman will think of the messier reality he finds when he leaves the set.

Families who enjoy this movie may also like “Ed TV” (not for young children) the story of a man who agrees to have his entire life broadcast on television.

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Drama Satire

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

This movie is only slightly behind “Phantom Menace” in anticipation and excitement among kids, but parents need to know that it is very, very, very raunchy, with incessant and prolonged sexual humor. Because it is a comedy, the rating system gives it a PG-13, but the material would clearly get an R if it appeared in a drama. Do not kid yourself that some of these jokes are “over their heads.” Those kids who do not see it — or who do see it and miss some of the jokes — will hear detailed explanations from those who do of references like Powers asking one woman “Which is it, spits or swallows?” and pretty much every woman “Do I make you horny?” In addition, the movie features character names Felicity Shagwell and Ivana Humpalot, a rocket shaped like a penis (described by a series of characters with every imaginable euphemism), references to a one-night stand “getting weird,” an extended sequence in which it appears that a number of objects are removed from Powers’ rectum, and Powers’ inability to perform in bed due to his missing “mojo.” There is also a good deal of potty humor, including Powers mistaking a stool sample for coffee.

The movie is very funny at times and always genial enough to inspire generosity toward the jokes that don’t work. Spy boss Basil Exposition (Michael York) wisely advises both Powers and the audience not to think too much about the plot. So we are left with a series of skits as Austin Powers (Mike Meyers) loses his wife (Elizabeth Hurley from the first movie, who turns out to be a killer robot), meets up with CIA agent Felicity Shagwell (deliciously pretty Heather Graham) and goes after Dr. Evil (also Mike Myers), still plotting world domination, with the assistance of Number Two (played by Robert Wagner in the scenes set in the present and Rob Lowe doing a great Robert Wagner impersonation in the scenes set in the past). Dr. Evil goes back in time to 1969 to steal Powers’ “mojo” with the help of a huge Scot called Fat Bastard (also Mike Meyers) and Powers goes back to 1969 to retrieve it. Meanwhile, Dr. Evil is still struggling with his dysfunctional relationship with his son (Seth Green), who goes on the Jerry Springer show to talk about it with other children of fathers plotting world domination. Dr. Evil becomes very attached to a tiny clone of himself, christened “Mini-Me” and takes time out from extorting billions of dollars from the President (Tim Robbins) to sing “Just the Two of Us” with him. And somehow everyone ends up on the moon.

This is silly fun for its core audience of college kids. They will find the jokes about the 1980’s wildly funny, though they may miss some of the jokes about the 1960’s. Parents should be very cautious about allowing children or young teens to see the movie, and should be prepared to talk with kids who see or hear about it, to answer questions, explain family standards on the use of the language in the movie, and to provide reassurance.

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Action/Adventure Comedy Satire Spies

Cats Don’t Dance

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

A singing, dancing cat named Danny goes to Hollywood to become a star in this colorful and energetic animated musical suitable for all but the very youngest toddlers. He finds, however, that no one in Hollywood thinks that animals can be stars. A Shirley Temple-style moppet named Darla Dimple pretends to help him audition with his friends, only to sabotage their big number by flooding the soundstage. Danny, humiliated, decides to go back home. But he can’t give up, and the rousing finish has all of the animals staging a spectacular musical number, with the inadvertent help of Ms. Dimple.

The animation is well above average, if not quite up to the Disney standard, and the voice characterizations are excellent, with Scott Bakula and Jasmine Guy as the leads and Kathy Najimy, Don Knotts, and George Kennedy outstanding in supporting roles. Parents will appreciate some sly satire and the music, written by Randy Newman and performed by Natalie Cole.

Themes to discuss include judging others on their talent and character, rather than their appearance, and about working for your dreams, even when the obstacles seem insurmountable. Kids may also like to talk about Darla Dimple, why she was so threatened by the talented animals and the contrast between the way she behaved in private and when she was in the public eye.

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Animation For all ages For the Whole Family Musical Satire Talking animals

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Posted on April 14, 1999 at 3:06 pm

In this technical marvel of a movie, human and animated actors interact seamlessly. It begins with a cartoon, loveable Roger Rabbit taking care of adorable Baby Herman, despite every kind of slapstick disaster. Then, as birdies are swimming around Roger’s head after a refrigerator crashes down on him, a live-action director steps in to complain that the script called for stars, and we are in a 1947 Hollywood where “Toons” are real.
A private detective named Eddie (Bob Hoskins) is hired by the head of Roger’s studio to get evidence that Roger’s gorgeous wife Jessica is seeing another man. Eddie does not want the assignment. Once a friend to the Toons, he hates them since one of them killed his brother. But he needs the money badly, so Eddie goes to the Ink and Paint nightclub, where Jessica performs, and he takes photos of her playing “patty-cake” (literally) with Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), maker of novelties and gags. Roger is distraught when he sees the photographs. But it turns out that Jessica is completely faithful to Roger, and that she is caught up in a complex plot to close down Toon Town and Los Angeles’ excellent public transportation system to build freeways. Eddie’s efforts lead him to Toon Town and then to a warehouse where the real villain is revealed.
This was a one-time opportunity for cartoon characters from all the studios to join forces, and it is one of the great pleasures in movie history to see them all together. Donald Duck and Daffy Duck perform a hilarious duet at the Ink and Paint Club. On his way out the door at Maroon studios, Eddie brushes by several members from the “cast” of “Fantasia.” The penguin waiters from Mary Poppins show up in another scene, as do Pinocchio, Mickey Mouse, and Woody Woodpecker. The mix of characters and styles works extremely well, and kids will enjoy seeing some of their favorite characters in a different context. Kathleen Turner provided the sultry speaking voice of Jessica Rabbit, but her singing voice was Amy Irving.
Children will be delighted with the Toon characters, and with the interaction of the cartoons with the human actors and with the physical world. Eddie’s venture into Toon Town is almost as good. The story is fast-paced and exciting, and the slapstick is outstanding. But the human and cartoon characters mix more smoothly than the combination of slapstick and film noir references in this movie. The plot includes murder, corruption, and suspected adultery. The premise that the only possible explanation for the traffic system in Los Angeles is that it was the vision of a sinister madman is funnier for adults than it is for kids. Eddie is not an especially attractive leading character. Still reeling from his brother’s murder, he drinks too much and is surly to his clients, to his girlfriend, and to Roger.

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Animation Based on a book Comedy Fantasy For the Whole Family Satire
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