Being A Dad

When you're raising boys, there are certain things you know they're going to show interest in eventually - chicks, beer, video games - you just don't know when it'll happen. So far, in my experience, it's always earlier than you anticipated. (Note to self - pick up a six-pack on the way home. We're running low.)

But of all the things I was somewhat prepared for, I have to admit that professional wrestling didn't make the list. And I guess it should have because both Jackson and Griffin are completely obsessed. 

I only had a brief interest in wrestling when I was growing up. Of course then it wasn't the media empire it is today. Back then it was on Saturday afternoons and it was just one match after the other - very little backstory, very little drama. 

Obviously today it's quite the spectacle and most of it (particularly the stuff going on outside of the ring) is wildly inappropriate for young kids (or unappropriate, as my kids sometimes say which I like to think means "super inappropriate".) 

At any rate, I figured we were safe as long as we didn't let them watch it on TV. What I hadn't figured was that Vince McMahon and his cronies were holed up in a lab somewhere in search of ways to entice young fans. And of course the answer was toys. Rumblers, to be precise. If you don't know what they are, spend a few moments at my house and chances are you'll step on one. Or twelve. The toys, of course, are the gateway drug to what lies ahead. So while my kids have seen only a few snippets of actual wrestling, they're still fully versed in the wrestling universe - in other words, they can smell what The Rock is cooking. 

So now we're inundated with facts and figures and endless questions about mysterious figures like The Undertaker, Shamrock, The Miz and most of all, John Cena, who seems to be the Pied Piper for adolescent boys. For the record, John - I can "see" you - I just don't know what the big deal is. 

Of course there's nothing we can do about any of this except to bide our time and wait for whatever the next obsession is and cross our fingers that it doesn't entail a trip to the emergency room. 

Recently, we took the kids to see Gulliver's Travels. The theater we went to was only showing it in 3-D, which was more than okay for Jackson and Griffin. I asked for 4 tickets, 2 children and 2 adults. 56 bucks. I can't recall my exact reaction but I'm pretty sure I made Raisinettes in my pants. 

I realize it's a cliche to suggest going to the movies is too expensive. And it is. But we don't go that often (I think the last non-kids movie Kristin and I saw in the theaters was The Turning Point....Might have been An Unmarried Woman) and we were looking forward to doing something fun with the kids. Plus, you can usually save money by catching a matinee but unfortunately there are no discounts for 3-D.

The other issue is - spoiler alert - 3-D adds absolutely nothing to this movie. It's not a great movie, but it's got some fun parts and the kids enjoy their Jack Black as much as mom and dad do but 2-D would have been more than fine, thank you very much.

Plus, my glasses had a big old thumb print on one of the lenses which added a very unwelcome fourth dimension to the proceedings. 

Here's the deal - all kids movies are being made in 3-D now and initially both the 3-D version and the 2-D version would play in most multiplexes so you had a choice whether or not you wanted to cash in your 401k or not to see the film. But I fear that 3-D only is coming our way and I can't imagine anyone will be able to keep up with these prices. 

For an industry that practically invented the "shameless money grab" and who continues to crank out movie after movie filled with one-dimensional characters and stories, 3-D is at least one D too many. 

It took me a while to figure out why this movie didn't do it for me and now, after 70-80 viewings, I think I got it...

First of all, it should go without saying that even a bad Pixar movie is still better than almost every other kids movie out there (it should have gone without saying, but I said it anyway).  

Also, I'm in the minority here - there are a lot of people who love this movie. There are also a lot of people who love sour cream, though, and we all know how gross that is.  

Now then, back to the movie - one positive thing I can say about it is it looks amazing.  Especially the views of Paris. Unfortunately, the realism is also one of its faults.  Any of the scenes that feature hundreds, if not thousands, of rats scurrying about is just nauseating.  Not to mention the scenes where they're preparing food.  

My main complaint, though, is with the characters themselves.  There's hardly anyone likable in this movie, which is very unusual for a Pixar, who traditionally have a knack for making even the most obnoxious creatures entertaining.  

But not here.  Remy, the main rat, is essentially a snob who longs for finer food and a more cultured life than the typical rat living on the tracks of the E train.  He's voiced by comedian Patton Oswalt, who has a cult like following, but to me has a voice that's like fingers on a blackboard.  And I don't mean that in a good way.  

The other lead, Linguini, Remy's human counterpart, is basically a whiny bitch (not surprisingly, the whiny bitch action figures under-performed at Toys R Us).  

The rest of the cast isn't much better - the only real humor comes from Remy's rat brother who is perfectly content eating anything and everything.  Everyone else is just pretty mean.  

Ultimately, there are many lessons to be learned from this film but the main one for me is that France has a massive, extremely animated, rat population.  That's gotta be great for tourism.  

There's a scene in the classic film Diner where Eddie (Steve Guttenberg) and Billy (Tim Daly) are in a movie theater watching The Seventh Seal.  With a dumbfounded expression, Eddie exclaims, "What am I watching? It just started, and I don't know what's happening."   

I'm reminded of this whenever I experience something wildly popular for the first time that I just don't get.  Like Yo Gabba Gabba!

Atonal singing, creepy characters, LSD induced imagery and what appears to be Jimmie "Dyn-O-Mite!" Walker in a shag carpet bathing cap.  These are just a few of the things you'll find during any given episode.  Not to mention appearances by folks whose hipster quotient is through the roof (people who would never use the word folks, for instance) like Jack Black, Andy Samberg and The Roots.  

I recently read the program was not developed by TV executives but rather by two young dads who were disappointed with children's television choices.  Which reminds me of another movie quote, this one from the family classic, Die Hard:

John McClane: Now, you listen to me, jerk-off, if you're not part of the solution, you're a part of the problem.  Quit being a part of the f-ing problem and put the other guy back on!

Welcome to the party, parents.  

I don't get it.  

You'd think I would - I like cartoons... I like sponges... I like nautical stuff... I love Clancy Brown... what's missing?  

For starters, I can't seem to watch an episode without feeling nauseated - it may be a highly detailed illustration of toe nail fungus or eyeball veins, but there always seems to be something that makes me want to wretch.  

And I can appreciate programs that offer something for both adults and kids - Looney Tunes being the Grand Poobah of this genre - but while it works for my kids, it does nothing for me.  

Now unless you've been living in a pineapple under the sea, you know how much I'm in the minority here.  Everyone loves Spongebob - he's like Raymond, only yellow and more porous.  

So I guess I'll have to make my peace with the videos, the games, the clothes, the backpacks and all the assorted merchandise.  But it doesn't mean I have to like it.  

Let me start off by saying this has nothing to do with whether or not I think this is a good movie.  I'm more concerned with whether or not it's appropriate for kids.  And in that regard, I suppose you have to ask yourself the following questions - are you a big fan of nightmares?  Of having your kids run screaming in the night to your bed? Then by all means, nuke up some popcorn, grab the kiddies and have yourself a good, old fashioned movie night!

For the record, people love this movie.  It was nominated for an Oscar (then again, so was Titanic, so take that with a grain of salt), it's based on an acclaimed book and was made by the same director of an another beloved movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas.  

All of that is well and good - the problem is people have started to equate animated movies with kids movies and that's not always the case.  Many adults will love this film.  Many teenagers too and I'm sure there are a lot of young kids who will dig it as well.  But watch it for yourself first to decide whether your child will be bothered by things like losing your parents, having buttons sewn into your eyes, creepy houses, ghosts, etc.  

Now I know what you're thinking - "you're a parent, it's your responsibility to pre-screen everything your child is exposed to."  To which I say two things...

1) What about the time I need for other, equally important things like checking my fantasy baseball team and reading Lost recaps?  

2) Bite me.  

Tax audits... root canals... explosive diarrhea - these are just a few of the things more enjoyable than Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, which remarkably has made over $200 million (making Betty Thomas the highest grossing female director ever - the time has come indeed, Ms. Streisand).  

Now, I know what you're thinking - other than The Sting 2 and Fletch Lives, sequels are never any good.  And you're right, but this one makes the original look like a Preston Sturges classic.  I won't even bother you with the details, because let's face it - your kids are going to want to watch it anyway.  Over and over and over again. And that would be fine if this was sheer, dumb, harmless entertainment.  But it's actually pretty mean-spirited and they continue to use the squeaky voices to cover up not-for-kids dialogue (a reference to pubic hair from the first movie comes to mind).  

And, at the risk of spoiling anything, take a look at the sleeping arrangements in the last scene and you tell me how kid friendly it is.  

The DVD is coming out soon - consider yourself warned.