I went to the movies today with my daughter. Uh-oh.
Caveat Number One: I'm not really so much a fan of Disney movies.
I know. The heresy of this blog never ends. Not like Disney? That's just...just....unamerican! And to that, I say: Okay.
Perhaps I should explain. When I was a kid (for that is an appropriate reference point at which to begin a conversation about Disney), I was like anyone else (well, in this regard). On Sunday nights, 7:30 I think it was, I was sitting there in the family room with the best of 'em. Actually, we called it the TV room, not the family room, I just use that term because you probably call it a family room and that way you'll picture the right room, rather than a little room with just a TV in it--it's pretty in keeping with my family that we called it the TV room, for it surely was more about TV than it was about family, and we calls em as we sees em.
I sat there, waited for that ubiquitous music to play and for Walt Disney's personal welcome. The shows were good. Sometimes there were ads for Disney films: Thomasina, The Love Bug, Jungle Book, even Cinderella. I was still on board then.
Maybe it all stems back to my mother buying me Matchbox cars and a basketball. But there was something in that upbringing that placed me firmly on the path to feminism. And through that lens, I have not been able to stomach the blatant heterosexism inherent in nearly every Disney film, the way in which even the most brave heroine is, in the end, fulfilled by meeting the man of her dreams. Yuck. They're also often sorta scary (I think that's called the "conflict" in plot development, which kinda misses the point that there are some kids movies that are really compelling that are not scary). And the merchandising? Don't get me started.
It really comes down to this. Disney: Boys=Adventure, Girls=Princesses. Nuff said.
So yeah, Disney films have not been featured prominently in my household. Yeah, my daughter doesn't know the "classics". She knows The Parent Trap (the old one), she knows Homeward Bound (they do a bit better with animals). She's seen Mary Poppins (which she never enjoyed until she saw it in a "singalong" format in a theater), and James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl=Good). And she's seen some recent ones: Wall-E ("too scary"), Enchanted, Ratatouille, Cars, and the Pooh movies (A. A. Milne=Also Good). But that's about it. Really. I can hear you saying, aghast, "But what about...[insert Disney film that everyone but everyone has seen]???" Nope.
Just wanted to give you a context for the rant that's about to come. You're welcome.
Today, Phoebe and I went to see Race to Witch Mountain. It was okay, it was fine, it was good, she liked it, I thought it held together enough to sit through, despite some obvious oversights in plot development. Hey, it's Disney, not Bertolucci. But my overwhelming thought throughout the whole movie was "What sort of deal did they make with some other studio, director, or star?" Because actually, it's more of an ad. It's the training bra of action films. Who knew?
As you may recall if you grew up in the era of dinosaurs (like me), there were two other Witch Mountain films (I knew it sounded familiar). They were made in the 70's. Similar plot lines--alien children, superpowers, evil pursuer. They were pretty good. There was a remake for TV in the 90's as well, also okay. Despite first appearances, I am oriented as to time and space and know that this is 2009-so you'd think that I'd be expecting this. I wasn't.
I expected an exciting movie about two kids trying to return to the mother ship--I'd seen the previews. I did not expect a movie that was so blatantly and transparently designed to prime kids' pumps for watching mainstream action and violent sci-fi films as teenagers. At times, there was almost no plot line. But there were lots of exciting, violent, and prolonged car chases (and even two references to Bullitt, which is generally regarded as the best car chase movie of all time), many explosions, guns, and gunshots, violent aliens on the rampage, and a few enormous fireballs thrown in for good measure. And for heaven's sake, the star is a former pro wrestler. Not that he didn't do a good job, it's more of a commentary on the stereotypical appearance of action film stars.
Don't get me wrong. It was fine (as these things go).
I suppose I feel irritated that after 35 minutes of ads (no lie) before the feature film started, the movie felt like a pitch in itself: "Love action? Love violence? Not quite ready for PG-13 or R? Happy to help tide you over until you can see the 'big stuff'! Tell your parents it's Disney!" [insert sound of cash registers ringing]
And what's the matter with a plot line, anyway?