My oldest son is 4 ½ years old and had never been to a movie. I know. Deprived. I had staved off taking him (despite friends suggesting movie dates in the past) because I wanted the first movie experience to be unforgettable (admittedly more for me than him) and I wanted to be able to take his younger brother too.
Lightning McQueen and Mater have been favourites in our house for the past few years and the boys often pick Cars when it is movie time. Honestly, I enjoy the movie too and lately Disney flicks are the only “films” that I am watching. I like the message that McQueen, Mater and the rest of the Colorado Springs crew relay about friendship, sportsmanship and accountability. So when I heard the sequel, aptly titled Cars 2, was coming to a theatre near us, I decided that this would be the perfect first movie experience.
When am I going to learn that when expectations are high they have a L-O-N-G way to fall?
It wasn’t all bad.
The boys were amazed by sheer size of the building and the crowds of people – and we were only in the parking lot.
After severing my right arm and handing it over to the cashier shelling out $27 for three kiddie popcorn combos and $10 for ONE child’s admission ticket (I had a gift certificate for me and the cashier told me that my three year old was really two today), I was full of excitement even though my wallet was empty.
The boys were enjoying the experience and I was enjoying watching their reactions to the newness of everything, including the majestic screen and the “flippy” seats. Once we had adjusted to the darkness the three of us were eager to enjoy the movie.
The movie starts off with a bang, quite literally. Finn McCool (new to the cast of characters) is analogous to 007 as he scales an ocean liner and spies on the motley crew of “lemons” hatching their plan to destroy bio-fuel and kill celebrity racecars like Lightning McQueen.
The plan is carried out and the movie is heavily peppered with guns, explosions, bombs, and “kill ‘ems”.
Sadly, the sub-plot is not much better. McQueen is vying for the World Grand Prix title and his country-bumpkin buddy Mater is an embarrassment to him. Feeling dejected, Mater strays from the Colorado Springs gang and through a series of blunders winds up working as a spy.
Maybe because a story of international espionage goes over most young kids’ heads the makers felt a need to insert shoot-em up scenes to keep the meandering attention spans of the audience. However, as much as the main plot is riddled with physical violence the sub-plot is laden with hurtful words specifically, “idiot”, which are repeated over and over.
I was so disappointed. This was nothing like the Cars we know and love.
I spend so much time in our every day life trying to negate the violent play and images that seem to creep up with positive messages and re-direction. I didn’t need Lightning McQueen, a quasi-role model effectively erasing all of that in ninety minutes.
My boys are at a crossroads. No longer do the singsong voices and cuddly cartoons of Treehouse appeal to them. But the alternatives seem to be too grown-up for them.
I understand that they are still young and that I can’t be their censor forever, but in the meantime I want to preserve their innocence a little while longer.
I would love some suggestions for family-friendly movies that are suitable for 4-6 year olds. Curious George, the Muppets, Elmo, etc. are all favourites but I need to expand the digital library.
photo credits: www.washingtonpost.com and http://www.familyfriendlyfrugality.com