Friday, May 31, 2013

Bad Guys With Good Hearts

Often I wonder why Peanut gravitates towards certain movies. She likes the princess ones for obvious reasons. (She's a princess.) She likes movies with animals because she is an animal lover. But I especially love that she loves funny movies. Within this genre, I've noticed a trend: sarcastic evil villains. Ambitious, hilarious, type-A guys who appear tough on the outside but really have a good heart deep down. Sound like someone you know? I have no less than four examples:

"Megamind:" (2010/rated PG): Is it bad that I got excited when Peanut, at age four, heard the first few chords of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" on the radio in the car one day, and recognized it? I beamed with pride knowing she knows the song because of this movie. In fact, she also knows "Back in Black" and "Crazy Train" as "the Megamind songs." The movie has great music, including "Welcome to the Jungle" in my favorite scene. That alone makes it a winner for me.

Add in the Will Ferrell factor. I'm a fan. As the voice of the title character, he makes this movie laugh-out-loud funny. Megamind is an alien who became a villain after being bullied in school. Always an outcast and always on the losing end in his battles with his nemesis, he finally defeats him and takes over the city, only to become bored and create another foe. The foe turns bad and Megamind becomes the good guy because he has no other choice.

 We first showed this movie to Peanut when she was four. I  think that was too young. There's a lot of fighting (humorous violence, if you will). And the aforementioned classic rock music that is featured is not exactly kid-friendly even though I love it. If I could do it over, I'd wait until she was five or six. I've said before that my biggest concern in movies is language, not violence. Yet, I have become more relaxed about that because I think Peanut has showed she can handle it.

What Megamind has is an evil-turns-good message. That we can find the good in anyone. Peanut wanted to show this movie at her sixth birthday party, which was a movie night with her friends. That's how much she loves it. We love it too.

"Despicable Me:" (2010/rated PG) She also wanted to watch this one with her friends at her birthday party. (She put it to a vote, with Brave and Enchanted also in the running. Enchanted won.) Peanut loves the little girls in this movie. And the Minions. Who doesn't love the Minions? Steve Carell gives a masterful performance as Gru, the over-the-hill super villain who adopts the girls as part of his plot to pull off one final heist.

We DVR'd this movie for the two of us to watch before showing it to Peanut. We had very low expectations. Fast forward to us laughing so loudly that we had to pause the movie so we wouldn't miss the next scene. In the end, this movie is about love. A dad's love. The girls - strong, independent, curious - are the path to the  moral lesson. Gru eventually chooses them above himself. He realizes they make his life better. Just like Peanut made my life better. (Although I was NOT a washed-up super villain before she came along.)

What this movie also helped me as a parent realize is that it's ok to show Peanut movies with bad characters or rough language. As long as we talk about it, and are ready to answer her questions. And they have to be entertaining. Choosing love over evil is also a theme worth sharing with your kids.

"Wreck-It Ralph:" (2012/Rated PG) I have to admit I heard a lot of good things about this movie and still had low expectations. Wow was I blown away. Aside from being clever and nostalgic, this movie has a huge heart courtesy of its huge title character. Ralph is an outsider who wants desperately to fit in. He's a bad guy who wants to be a good guy. So he tries to win a medal in another game to prove he could be a hero. That's where he meets Venellope, herself an outcast in her own game. Ralph unintentionally, and then intentionally, becomes her hero. Without the medal. They make a hilarious and adorable odd couple team in what is essentially a buddy flick.

I think this movie touches a lot of emotions many of us feel or have felt. The need to fit in. The self-doubt. The desire to change ourselves. The realization that we can be loved and accepted for who we are. My favorite line comes at the end. From his game, Ralph is watching Venellope in her game and he says, "If that little kid likes me, how bad can I be?" Having gone through all of the emotions I just described at some point in my life, some of them still to this day, that line resonates with me and how Peanut has helped me put things in perspective. Because as long as that kid loves me, despite my faults, how bad can I be? Peanut has helped me love me more than anyone else.

"Shrek Forever After:" (2010/rated PG) The problem with a lot of these movies, as parents, is that the villains are so damn funny. Such is the case with Rumplestiltskin in this movie. Even Peanut thinks he's funny, with his wigs and his cupcakes and his sarcastic one-liners. I have mastered an impression of him. An impression she often demands I perform at will. When you watch this movie the first time, you think, "Wow, this little bastard is evil." And you doubt whether your child should be watching it. But the overriding themes of this and every Shrek movie, are love and friendship. And those are things I like to teach my daughter.

Feeling frustrated about his redundant and hectic life, Shrek makes a deal with "Rumple" that allows him to go back and be a mean ogre again for a day. But Rumple tricks him... and our adventure ensues. Shrek realizes his family and friends are the most important things in his life. And he tries as hard as he can to get them back. And because I'm a big softy despite my snark and sarcasm, I love this line from Fiona as she and Shrek are arguing in the beginning of the movie: "You have three beautiful children, a wife who loves you, friends who adore you. You have everything. Why is it the only person who can't see that is you?" Sometimes you don't know what you have until it's gone. Sometimes I take for granted what I have. Sometimes I waste a half a day or even a full one in a sour mood, frustrated at our lack of time/money/sanity.

At the end, Shrek tells Fiona, "I always thought I rescued YOU from the Dragon's Keep. No. It was you who rescued me." Niagara Falls in DKLand, ladies and gents. Thanks for the perspective in an unlikely place, Shrek. (And for the snark, Rumple.)

I would recommend all of these movies for Peanut's age (6) and up. But I admit when we showed her all but Wreck It Ralph she was too young. Sometimes ya gotta break even your own rules. Hey, if bad guys can turn good, evil can find love, and a cartoon ogre can remind me of what's important in life, then you can loosen the reins a little if you want.

The second-most amazing thing I've ever seen My Director do (give birth is first) reminded us of a scene from Despicable Me. You can read about it HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your review of these wonderful movies. I love the animated movies showing strong female characters, especially when they are chidren as they are in Despicable Me. May I suggest some "oldies" as well? Danny Kaye in "The Court Jester" just aired on TCM and was wonderfully well done and very, very funny. I think your daughter would love it. Also if you haven't seen it yet we highly recommend "How to Train a Dragon", which has a great message and is still funny and kind. Keep up the great work and enjoy Peanut every day, they grow too fast!

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