Archive for the ‘Talking To Kids About Movies’ Category

Prince of Persia (2010) is based on a 1989 video game, so the obvious audience for the film is young teens—probably boys more than girls. Parents and grandparents who take their kids and grandkids will not be embarrassed or bored.

You will probably find it a diminished, postmodern Indiana Jones film, by which I mean lots of humor, snakes, whips, a beautiful but slightly treacherous girl, and supernatural weapons of mass destruction. Jake Gyllenhaal is not Harrison Ford, but Ben Kingsley makes a great villain and Alfred Molina has some very funny lines. The ostrich races are a great touch.

As you drive home from the film with the minivan full of kids, here are some conversation starters that might help the kids think about the film both intelligently and spiritually.  Remember, these are conversation topics, not lecture topics—oops, got a little preachy, didn’t I J!

  1. You don’t have to be born a prince to be a prince! Dastan was a street kid with nothing but a strong sense of justice and right. Then he was an adopted kid with lots of stuff, but no power or future. He continued to stand out and become the best of the brothers because of his courage and his character. Kids don’t all start out equal; many start with huge disadvantages, but all can become people who others look up to, people who do good and not evil.
  2. Beauty can be used for good or evil! This is a great topic for boys and girls both. The princess had great beauty which gave her both opportunity and power.  She had to make many choices of whether to use it for good causes that helped others or just for her own benefit. And sometimes her beauty got her into trouble. Beauty can’t be the goal; beauty is just a tool to be used for good or bad.
  3. Good people have bad things happen to them. Dastan did not try to kill his father, but he is blamed for it and has to run. The city of Alamut is conquered even though it had not rebelled. Life is not fair, so the only real question is what you do when you are treated unfairly.
  4. Stand up for what you believe to be right. In real life you don’t get a do-over! In the film Dastan knows from the beginning that attacking the city is wrong, but he lacks the self-confidence to speak up against his older brothers. In the film, he gets a second chance, but in real life that rarely happens. Teach your children to be strong and courageous and to not be afraid. Stand up and speak up for what is right—all the time.

If your teens are a little older and would like something really challenging, ask them if they know  the prince of Persia story in the Bible. Then when you get home, point them to Daniel 10 and let them think about the role of angels in spiritual warfare.  You won’t have the answers to all of their questions, but it’s a great chapter to open our eyes to the unseen realities of the world we live in as well.

Prince of Persia is a typical Disney film, very clean with just a touch of violence to rate it for older children. And by the way, don’t miss the small political jabs in references to taxes and WMDs.

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I went to Barnes and Noble on Saturday and bought a copy of Alice In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  I grew up first reading the book, then seeing the movie, but I suspect that for my children and grandchildren, if they read the book, it will be after they see the movie—and why not? I hope our children can grow up without feeling like there is competition between these very different media.  Ice cream and strawberries are not in competition.  Anyway, I’ll let you know about the books later; for now, let’s continue looking at what to talk to kids about after seeing the current movie. 

Disney’s animated Alice was based on the first book when Alice is a very young girl and full of spunk. Tim Burton’s story finds Alice engaged to be married and torn between what she wants and what others want for her—not an unusual situation for young women.  The following ideas may be more for parents of young girls to think about and parents of older girls to talk about. Use your own judgment!

1.       “Whhhooo are you?” This, for me, is the defining question about this Alice.  Her adventure in Wonderland is all about a search for the “real” Alice.  I just heard Scott Adair at Harding University give an extraordinary lecture on our own adolescents and emerging adults, all of whom are engaged primarily in trying to figure out who they are going to be.  What would happen if we parents were to occasionally simply ask , “Who are you?”

2.       “You’ve lost your Much-ness.”  I can’t forget this moment of truth! That our culture encourages girls to lose their muchness is well documented. Strength, intelligence, independence, imagination, basic integrity are abandoned in favor of popularity, faux dependence, and physical sexuality at the expense of emotional sexuality. (If you want to read more on this, you might try the classic Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher.)

3.       Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast!  As Alice begins to define herself more clearly, she discovers strength in this adage she remembers from her father.  She begins to believe that she can do things that she previously thought were impossible. What are the “impossible” things that your kids could do if they believed they could?  Adding a sincere belief in what God could do through them would be even more defining, wouldn’t it.

4.       The Courage to say “No.”  The most important word here is probably courage, but one of the most difficult expressions of courage is saying “no” to what friends expect them to say “yes” to. Alice’s ultimate expression was rejecting her arranged marriage and launching out on her own voyage. Maybe your starter questions would be: Do you ever have to tell your friends you don’t want to do something that they want you to do with them? . . . . What do you say to them? 

I raised the question at the LST office a couple of weeks ago as to what today’s younger children confront in which they learn that because they are Christians, they will have to say no and be different from some or all of their friends. When I was a child, we had long lists of things we couldn’t do, but almost all of those taboos are gone now. Nevertheless, somewhere, somehow, kids need to learn to step out of the crowd and make strong Christian choices.  How do you teach your children to be strong?

I’d love to hear your stories of teaching, preserving, nurturing “much-ness” in your children/grandchildren.

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Sherrylee and I took our oldest granddaughter and her friend to see Alice In Wonderland on Saturday. I was reminded that any time you take someone you care about with you to a movie, you see it through more than 3D colored lenses.  (My sister-in-law just told me a story of innocently and blindly taking her mother to see The Piano.  Afterwards she apologized to her mother, quite certain that her mother had barely avoided apoplexy, but Mom replied, “Oh, well, I’ve had three children. . . . “)  Anyway, back to Alice.

Overall, we enjoyed Alice a lot. It was clever, great design, well-acted, and full of interesting characters.  As in most dramatic productions, the villain was probably the most interesting, so let’s start with her, the Queen of Hearts.  Here are four ideas for talking with your kids about this film.

1.       People with big heads usually do not get along with other people.  Noticing the Queen’s unusually big head provokes a talk about how movies use costume and design to develop characters. It has always made sense to depict people who are too proud of themselves as having big heads (Notice even the innocuous Jimmy Neutron.) So don’t get the big head.

2.       Some of the biggest laughs from the kids were when the Queen was using the pink flamingo for golfing and the pig’s belly for her footstool.  Much of what makes us laugh is at the expense of others. People who use other people for their own benefit are not usually nice people—even if they are being used just for a good laugh.

3.       “Off with their heads!” The Queen was a person of judgment, not grace. People who always find punishment as the solution to their displeasure find that others  may obey them out of fear, but they will never be loved for who they are. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

4.       Beware the Jabberwock!  The Queen’s power depended entirely on her weapon of mass destruction!  We face people like this all the time who demand something from us OR, they will fire us, they will divorce us, they will throw a big tantrum, they will do something extreme  that will “destroy” their victim. Take away their WMD and they have nothing.  People whose power over others depends on WMDs are not nice people.

It is always good to have some conversation starters after movies with the kids. Maybe these will help you—and them—and you!

Next:   A Few Thoughts on Alice and the Mad Hatter.

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