Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cars 2, Pixar's Money Grab

If Cars 2 taught me one thing, it's that apparently, Lightning McQueen's tagline is "Ka-Chow!" because "KaChing!" is a little too obvious.  I mean a little too obvious in the same way Lady Gaga must say, "Hey, let's stop the eyeliner here, because any more would be a little too obvious."  It was visually amazing, but its obvious that the guiding principle behind the Toy Story sequels, namely, "we won't make a movie until we have a great story to tell, no matter how long that takes," is not in play in this franchise.
I'll be honest, I wasn't exactly the biggest fan of Cars the first time around.  I mean, I got what they were going for, but I really didn't care for the plot at all.  Yes, I feel bad for the little town that got left behind when the highway was built--sort of.  I also feel bad for all the corset makers, and blacksmith shops that had to close when their products became obsolete, but I'm not about to go back to using wagons or wearing corsets so they can feel needed again because they refused to relocate or learn a new trade.  Sometimes it's noble to not want to leave your home town, even if it's fading...I suppose...but you just have to acknowledge that you'll be staying behind in a sleepy small town and it won't return to it's former glory.  Okay, as you can see, I'm still having a hard time getting there, but I tried.  You can't have your cake and eat it too, either move out of the stupid little town, or stop griping about how no one comes there anymore!  I feel better letting that out.
Still, I'm always willing to give Pixar a chance, and I have a three year old, so I thought it'd be fun to take her to Cars 2.  I was worried that she might not be able to follow it because she doesn't really remember much about Cars, but I needn't have worried.  This movie felt like it was written nearly in it's entirety as an action flick, and after the fact, someone at Pixar said "Hey, let's have the cars act this one out!  We'll toss in some racing, we can get them out of Radiator Springs at the beginning somehow, and Larry the Cable Guy is funny, let's base the whole movie on that." 
This is basically a James Bond movie with beloved Cars characters (who I bet have products on sale at a store near you!).  Here's the trouble with James Bond movies--they're totally inapporpriate for children!  So, not only are they overly violent, but since (hopefully) kids haven't seen them, they didn't get the joke and weren't in on the homage. I'm all for a few nods to the 'rents in the audience who shelled out the bucks and drove the cars to get the target demographic there, but this was too big a nod to go over kids' heads. To them, it was just a violent movie.  Now, I know a lot of people felt The Incredibles was too violent, but here's the difference I saw between the two.  First, I expect fighting and battles in a superhero movie, so I was prepared to see kids in peril, weapons, etc.  Even though knew it was a "spy" theme, I did not expect to see the "Cars" whipping out guns and blowing each other up.  Secondly, The Incredibles never showed any dead, dying, blown up people, but I sure saw a lot of blown up cars and their pieces. 
Before you jump on me that well, cars aren't people, think about the fact that Pixar has spent the first movie (and nearly all non-battle parts of the second movie) trying to show us that cars are just like people!  They make lasting friendships, that are tested throughout the movies, have feelings, get embarrassed, and even have eyebrows that show their expressions!  At one point, a secret agent is shown the remains of his friend and fellow agent, crushed into a cube.  That's pretty darn sick to show to kids while presuming to teach them what happens when they carelessly hurt a friends feelings with mean words.  Seriously, kids, use mean words on me all you want if the alternative is crushing me into a cube!  Another car is tortured to death and they only cut away a moment before they kill him.  We do see the explosion.  Yes, he was killed--as he never comes back.  Yet another car dives into the water and releases tires (on the axles) that bubble to the surface to make the bad guys think he's dead.  A brilliant move for a person driving in a car, but if you are a car, aren't those severed body parts you're releasing?  Am I putting too much thought into this?  Maybe.  Would my kid who is very observant and understands things presented to her in only a literal way also think it was part of a living car--most definetly.
*Spoiler alert* Finally, I really didn't like the message of the movie overall.  I know in kid/teen movies, the idea that friendship should trump all, including reason and reality, is sacrosanct in the Disney universe.  According to High School Musical 2, I shouldn't even have applied to a college or gotten a job without a guarantee that I could bring any and all of my friends with me regardless of their qualifications.  I'm sure that would have made me oh so desirable to potential schools and employers--go ahead kids, try it!  In Cars 2, however, I thought this theme was taken to an even unhealthier level.  Most of the movie is about Tow Mater bumbling around the world acting like a fish out of water.  "That's funny right there!"  At the end of the movie, Lightning McQueen apologizes for yelling at him (when Mater's behavior while acting as a member of McQueen's pit crew interrupts a formal event and later costs him a race) and realizes he should have accepted his behavior as it was because he was being himself.  In fact, he says "You were just being yourself, and if people laugh at you for that, they are the ones with a problem."  Sounds beautiful on paper, right?  It would be one thing if the other cars were mocking Mater for, say, the color of his rust, or his accent, or even his unfortunate teeth--in other words, differences that are out of his control and add to this wonderful diversity that it our world.  But in the movie, Mater is bumbling around behaving totally inappropriately.  He is in other countries without learning about their customs, mocking them to their faces (albeit unintentionally), and being the quintessential "ugly American abroad."  I'm sorry, but that's not okay.  It's not "being yourself."  It's being a self-centered jerk.  Someone should be taken aside and told their behavior is unacceptable if it is in fact unacceptable.  Unless I missed the part of the movie where they explain that Mater has some sort of medical disorder that makes proper behavior impossible, that whole idea of "whatever you do is okay by me" is totally insane.  As a mom trying to teach her kids to be decent human beings, I hate that message with a passion.  The Me generation at it's worst. 
As I shushed my daughter's loud talking towards the end of the movie, I wouldn't have been at all surprised if she turned to me and said "I'm being myself, Mom.  If you don't like it, you're the one with the problem."  Luckily for me, however, she had totally stopped paying attention by then.  Cars 2 does not have any princesses in it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Gift

On Wednesday night, Daniel's local basketball league had a game at a nearby Jr. High.  We went to cheer him on.  Of course, Sam, who is still on her world tour of public restrooms (no end date in sight), had to pee. 
Sam walked in and said "This is a fancy bathroom! Isn't this nice?!"
Uh, no, Sam.  No, it really wasn't.  The stalls were painted teal so the students can ooze school pride even in their most private moments, but that doesn't translate to fancy or nice.  The fact that only about 1/3 of the sinks worked properly just confirmed my expectations. 
I can honestly say I could have gone the entire rest of my life without setting foot in a Jr. High bathroom again.
Thanks, parenthood.  Once again, you are the gift that keeps on giving. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For Her Dad

In honor of Fathers' Day, a story about Sam and her Dad.

Me: "Sam, you need to go in your room and clean up your mess."
Sam: "I want to, Mom, but I think I hear Daddy, and he's my favorite.  [yells] What do you need, Daddy?"
Daniel's voice from downstairs: "Sam, listen to and obey your mother!!"
Sam: "Oh.  Poop."

It was worth a shot, Sam, but part of what makes your Dad so great is that he always backs me up.  We love you, Daniel.  You are our favorite!

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's a Tough Job

This week I read an article and in the comments, things got particularly ugly.  People were arguing about the role of a stay-at-home-parent, and I was stunned by how many people felt that the partner at home should do not only 100% of the housework, but also 100% of the other partners personal needs (ie: their ironing, lunches, personal errands) because the other partner is supporting their ability to stay home and "take it easy" by working a full-time job.  Emphasis on FULL TIME JOB.  Apparently, 1954 never ended.  Also, apparently there in nothing harder in the entire universe than working approx. 40 hrs a week.  I feel terrible for my single friends who not only have to work a FULL TIME JOB, but also have to clothe, feed, and clean up after themselves, since apparently, it can't be done.  I don't remember ever going to work naked because no one else washed my clothes, but I must have had to.
Now I'm not debating that the stay-at-home spouse should do more than 50% of the housework at all, but I object to the idea that clocking a 9-5 day entitles someone to do nothing the remaining time at home.  Heck, I'd love to clock in and out at 9-5, but these kids have a pesky way of needing things outside regular business hours. 
Anyway, the whole conversation was absolutely startling, and I was surprised at how hateful people could be about this.  Really, raising children contributes nothing to the working partner and no monetary value is the same as worthless?  Being a SAHM mom is the same as a "kept" mistress?  How sad that we've "evolved" this far.  In our house, Daniel and I are a team and try to help each other out, isn't that the way it's supposed to work no matter what the working arrangement is?
Anyway, this morning I had to go to the bathroom.  I locked the door for some privacy, and the entire time I was in there, Sam banged the door and jiggled the handle.  Then she yelled "Hey, are you pooping or peeing in there?  Because pooping takes too long, and I need you!?"  Turns out, she was out of Capri Sun and wanted to know if she should throw the wrapper away.
Staying at home isn't as easy or glamorous at is appears. 
I rest my case.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scary Things To Come

Tonight, Sam continued to flail around like a lunatic after we advised her not to.  She started climbing on me while I was holding Peyton and I told her she had to take it elsewhere.  Continuing to disobey resulted in her accidentally kicking her baby brother in the back of the head.  I heard the sound of foot on head and I'm still a little mystified that he didn't cry or seem all that bothered by it (thank goodness he wasn't actually hurt).
Still, head kicking is completely unacceptable in our house, especially when she was warned that someone could get hurt.  We have standards for crying out loud!  Up to time out went Sam.
After a few minutes, Sam decided she had been penitent enough and came out to inform Daddy that she was sorry enough to leave her room.  The problem is, our policy (and she knows it) is that she is not to leave time out until we come talk to her, she doesn't get to decide she's done.  So Daniel promptly sent her back.
I was next to Sam's room changing Peyton's diaper when the Sam made her walk of shame back to her bed.  Angry at the continued punishment, halfway back to her "cell," she burst into very loud sobs. 
I glanced back down at Peyton when the crying started, and he very slowly let a grin cross his four-month-old face until he had a full blown beaming smile as his sister walked past the doorway bawling.  It even looked slightly (dare I say?) smug.  I'm sure he's not old enough to have been smiling just because she was crying, but the way the situation unfolded, I could just picture a voice in his little head saying "Enjoy time out, you head kicker.  Ha!"
Sibling rivalry already?  Or just something really funny about the diaper change process?  The world may never know...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Role Reversal

So, Sam and I are having a less than stellar day--possibly due to the fact that she woke up before 6am and never went back to sleep. So she's tired and cranky, I'm tired and cranky, and the end result is that Sam has lost a lot of privileges and taken a lot of field trips to time out already.

Finally, I guess she couldn't take it anymore because she came up to me and said "Look at me, we need to talk. Okay, Mom, you need to stop being mad at me right away, okay? I love you, and if you don't stop being mad at me, you are going to start losing privileges. You will lose your M&M's and not get any popsicles today, so stop being mad. Do you understand?"

It didn't work out for her exactly (seeing as I didn't forget who the mom is here), but it was certainly entertaining.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fuzzy Moments

Yesterday, Sam went up to her little brother, flashed him a big smile, started playing with his toes, and said "Hey there! Who's my little crapnugget? Are you my little crapnugget?! Yes, you are! Yes, you are!"
Naturally, this gave me pause so I said "Sam, uh, where did you learn that word?"
Sam: "What word?"
Me: "That word you are calling Peyton. Crapnugget."
Sam: "Oh, from Megamind!"
Me: "Okay, Sam. Now, I know you don't know this, but that's actually not a very nice word. We aren't going to call people that. I know you didn't do it on purpose, but please don't call your brother or anyone else a crapnugget."
Sam: "Sure Mom! [To Peyton] Okay, buddy. Are you my little poop? I love you little poop!"
Me: [Deep sigh]
We are very into potty humor at our house right now. Sam hasn't found a poop joke yet that she doesn't find hilarious.

So thanks, Megamind, for deciding to use a not nice word I've never heard of, that just goes by in passing (and to be fair, isn't directed at another character anyway). Somehow my kid set her laser sights on as the one word worth picking up and using. Thanks again, Megamind. You little crapnugget.
(As an adult, I still love Megamind. It seems like lately, when it comes to "kids" movies, I just don't know how much I love them for Sam. Isn't that their target audience--you know, kids? How kids manage to find these not nice words and zero in on them so quickly may be unfathomable, but it always happens.)