What do you think of when you think “family film?” For me, it’s the Herbie the Love Bug movies that my parents took us to in the early 70s. I confess I don’t remember a thing about the plot of these flicks, but I remember a late summer evening’s drive to a movie theater, all six of us piled into the car, and I remember being happy. When I was a little older, we all saw Star Wars together in Ogunquit, Maine; it was the opening weekend, and the six of us couldn’t all sit together (as I recall, my brothers sat on the stage directly in front of the screen, their heads tipped back to watch). I was more into the experience — the crowd, the excitement — than the story on the screen. And we all saw Airplane together, too (why, I wonder?), when I was old enough to be embarrassed to be seen at the movies with my parents.
We watched movies together at home more often. I loved staying home from school when I was little (before my mom returned to work) because we’d watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies together. We watched James Bond movies, which when I think back on it were entirely inappropriate — but probably most of the R content was over my head, anyway. We watched nutty 40s capers, like Kind Hearts and Coronets. We watched Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn movies. And of course we watched The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music every year on television, too.
Of course when I was a kid, I didn’t think much about the difficulty of “family movies.” We watched movies together. With four kids 8 years apart, probably one of us was always a little bored and someone else probably didn’t entirely get it, but no one complained because it was still nice to all be doing the same thing. Well, I should amend that: I didn’t complain, because as the youngest, I was always just grateful when my older siblings were doing something with me! That’s more accurate.
It’s a little easier with my guys today. The “family movie” options are greater, and the boys are close enough in age that they can watch the same things, so we’ve watched The Sound of Music together (once in the ER) — a good family film despite (for now; someday because of) the Nazi plot (they don’t ask about the war themes , and I don’t volunteer.) We’ve watched Toy Story a lot, which is probably the household favorite right now; we’ve watched Enchanted once. But even most of these films have elements the boys don’t get, or I don’t want them to get. It’s hard to get a family movie right for everyone in the family.
A Plumm Summer is a new family movie opening this weekend, and MotherTalk and Mom Central are trying to spread the word. I’m all in favor of helping out a little independent film, and this one’s got a great cast (Henry Winkler and Peter Scolari were my favorites) with a sweetly nostalgic voice-over by Jeff Daniels. The film’s set in 1968, and based on the true story of what happened in a small Montana town when the beloved Froggy Doo, a “Superstar puppet,” in David Brinkley’s words, was stolen. It’s a story of brothers, which of course interests me a lot these days, and about how their parents are managing their difficult path from sweethearts to partners. It’s got a bit of Scooby Doo feel to it, as the kids run circles around the FBI trying to solve the mystery of who stole Froggy Doo. Some of the themes and scenes are too heavy for my boys, but I’ll save it till they’re older. If you have kids in the 8-12 range, it might well make a good family outing for you.