Summer vacation for our family means things like ice cream before lunch, sleeping in, read-aloud books for the whole family, campfires and sometimes, if we need a break from star-gazing, story-telling and long walks at night, we sit down together for a movie. Movie nights during summer vacation feel different than movie nights during the school year. We seem to branch out a little, try films that are less of a "sure thing," and are a little more, in one way or another, adventurous. Three of this summer's choices stand out in my mind.
The is a recent release which, when I saw it previewed in the theater, I promised myself I would never have to watch. I should know by now not to say never. One night this summer my son chose to watch Curious George (much to his sisters' and cousins' dismay) for a sleep-over movie. The five older kids complained and pleaded for an alternative but ultimately agreed to suffer through it. To their collective surprise, they all enjoyed it. They enjoyed it enough to request it again the following night.
Their reaction intrigued my husband and me enough to allow us to ignore our misgivings (we don't like the books), and join them for the second viewing. From the terrific Jack Johnson soundtrack to the relatively simple animation that looks so much like the illustrations in the books, to the story itself, we enjoyed the film. It was sweet. The only false notes came in the form of glaring product placement for Dole bananas and Volkswagen, which seemed remarkably out of place in an animated movie. Curious George is a good choice for the whole family, from the youngest children to parents. It was a pleasant surprise.
Another fun summer vacation movie, one that has become something of a tradition for our family, is this 1984 cult classic. I do not imagine this was created as a "family film" particularly, but it has become that for our family and my brother's as well. The cast includes Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd and Jeff Goldblum, among others. The story is so convoluted, fun and outrageous that it seems like every time we watch it each one of us picks up on something new. It involves travel to and from another dimension, neuroscience, rock 'n roll, comic book heroes, twins separated at birth and true love. And that is really just the tip of the iceberg. Buckaroo Banzai is a film that not only stands up to, but almost requires repeated viewings. Watching this film each summer is like returning to a favorite vacation spot. Being there is pure joy, and it is always fun to talk about later.
This is a film I am almost ashamed to admit I had never seen until this summer. We've had a friend's copy for months, but only just got around to watching it. A surprise hit around the world when it was released in 1980, The Gods Must Be Crazy was a hit with our entire family as well. Every one of us, from the five-year-old to the 40-year-olds, enjoyed this picture. It has great footage of African wildlife, always a hit with our son, slapstick reminiscent of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton , and a glimpse of a simple, appealing, entirely idealized culture completely removed from our own. This is a lovely film that is lots of fun.
This summer we visited, by way of the movies, Africa twice and another dimension. That is part of the beauty of the movies: they can transport you to worlds you otherwise might not have a chance to visit. Where did your family go?
Sue "Mom on Film" Harvey is a mother of three who shares her passion
for film with bi-weekly, family-friendly movie recommendations.
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