Category Archives: kids media

Five Nightmares at Freddy’s

My son is obsessed with Five Nights at Freddy’s. He’s never played it. His older sister has never seen it. Boys in her class natter about it incessantly so through social osmosis he’s latched onto it, terrified. Someday* he’ll play it and wonder how it ate up so much sleep at the end of kindergarten.

We can’t talk it out. In his mind plain facts hunker down and shake. There is no solid ground when The Fear comes out, it touches everything. Freddy, like Chucky before him, is just a vessel**.

Freddy from Five Nights at Freddy'sIf the vessel can hold some of the general dark, I’m for it. Let Freddy hold as much as his sunken eyes can handle, as long as the air in my kids’ brain is clearer. Give the fear a place to rally so he can get more solid ground.

Maybe that’s horror at a tribal level, demons and witches sucking energy from pools of pain we dig around unpredictable things like jobs, sickness, rejection. The monster’s killed and we hope shotguns or sunlight works on personal demons too. Potential catharsis.

Some argue simulated catharsis unhelpfully medicate us — we’re too doped up on fantasy to face our own problems***. Maybe. Spending too long in worlds of carefully constructed narratives might lead us to oversimplify messy old Life, but spending zero time outside of messy old Life dulls down messy old Life.

At the bottom of all this is that I can’t control everything my kids see and what they’re scared of and I’m trying to make sense of it. I remember what it was like. I remember trading monster defense strategies with my friend (not play monsters – the ones really coming for you at night). And it burned off. I’m no longer afraid of the dark^, except its tendency to hide things like walls when I walk into them.

But for El Kindergartnero the Fear has kicked in. It needs something. If it wasn’t Freddy, maybe Slenderman. Scary robbers. Grease pens. The fear needs a vessel. All told, an aversion to life-size animatronic animals is specific and manageable. One building in town he doesn’t go to and he’s good, and that doesn’t break my heart any.

* Age 27, 28, somewhere in there.
** The 1988 horror movie doll has ground floor with k-6 kids in Boise.
*** Or bigger problems corporations or the government want us to look away from, like war, corruption, endless movie remakes.
^ Unless I just watched Jaws. None of this applies to Jaws.

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

After watching it something like 70 times with my oldest a few years ago I thought I had a sense of it but we watched it tonight with our youngest who has drunk of the Princess Kool-Aid. I was impressed. It’s really well-put together. Like Cinderella, it pulls together characters quickly to make transitions more exciting and finds fun ways to make dull tasks interesting. The scene in the woods with the animals, the owl quickly taking the lead of the animals and having a personality – which led to a transition into the woods and a transition into meeting Prince White Teeth – very smoothly and lightly done. It’s tight – 75 minutes! They don’t make them like that any more. Literally. Except for TV. Frozen was 102 minutes. Maybe studios feel they have to differentiate themselves from hour-long TV series but my kids under 6 lose interest at 45 minutes anyway.

There is a lot to like. There are little funny bits and the way they work through some of the holes in logic are great. I asked my wife aloud, “If they’ve been raising her for 16 years, why can’t they cook a cake and make a dress?” as we headed into the baking / sewing / cleaning scene but the characters went ahead and spelled out that the person sewing hadn’t done it, nor had the person baking, but they would this time as a last hurrah of being mortal. Seamless! I feel 50 when I write it, but it was a delight to watch.

To be honest they should have called it The Battle Between the Fairies and Maleficent. Aurora (the Beauty of the Sleeping of the title) was onscreen talking for all of 6 or 7 minutes (actually IMDB’s helpful trivia page says its 18 lines and 18 minutes on screen). Half of that in a trance or crying about life not being fair when you’re a princess, and half is singing. The Fairies are basically the main characters with Maleficent in the supporting role. Even the Prince has more to do than Aurora does – we get him as a kid, we get him riding around in the forest, fighting the big bad – the princess is basically a broomstick that gets pushed around for the plot to move forward. But I’d argue it’s not a film all about a dude rescuing a lady, it’s basically a film about good magic versus bad magic, good witches versus bad witches. The fairy tale itself, according to our friends on the Internet is not that different in the first half, though there is less singing in the old version. The second half, untold in the animated film, is where the old-school fairy tale shows its true colors – the prince’s mom is an ogre and demands to eat his two kids and wife, is tricked by the cook to eat other meat, and eventually is killed. I can see where that might not have fit, time-wise, in the Disney version.

But this Disney movie is appealing and runs quickly and smoothly, one thing into another, without much of a pause, except for the songs. Apparently (thanks again, trivia!) it was in production for something like 7 years. When I look at a Pixar film that has been in production a long time and how long a shelf-life it will have, and then look at this and how long its shelf life as been, sometimes the effort is worth the wait.


Movie: The Tooth Fairy (2010)

The family movie with El Pedro, Dwayne Johnson. Three things besides the obvious:

Lots of movies with this structure…

  1. I’m a jerk and lovin’ it
  2. Holy cow people around me don’t like me being a jerk
  3. I’ll be less of a jerk

…have a part where the main character bottoms out and ticks off every person they love. This is the big uncomfortable blowout scene before they gaze off in the distance and montage themselves into a better place with solemn music.

In this case it’s too harsh. One of my kids, old enough to understand it, took it pretty hard and checked out of the movie. The Rock doesn’t come across as harmlessly inept, and when someone who seems to know what they’re doing is mean, they might look like the villain, not someone worth saving.

The Rock ruins his life
The Rock ruins The Rock’s life by alienating The Rock from the people The Rock loves


The other thing is apparently The Rock is handsome. This from someone my age and female in the house.

Apparently The Rock is a handsome man


I just thought it was too long.

Family Media Roundup March 24 2014

Journey of Natty Gann – Apparently this was required viewing in Idaho and Utah in the 80’s but I haven’t talk to too many other people who have seen it (and the IMDB poster/dvd cover looks out of focus, etc). Gal goes across the nation trying to find her dad who left for a job during the Great Depression. It’s not very sentimental for a Disney movie, it’s a bit slow for little ‘uns, has some swears, and a creeper scene that is played out well enough that if you didn’t know what it meant you wouldn’t know what it meant. I don’t know if that’s good or not. But it’s a solid movie, and my kids will probably never watch it again.

Sky High – not a drug movie despite the name. Throwback to 80’s teen movies, but made for families, with superhero theme thrown in. Funny and kept the kids’ attention. Cover songs of 80’s tunes were a nice tribute but made me wish it was the real songs. Nothing really scary or threatening. Kids have rewatched it once already.

What? My kids choose the light comedy high school superhero movie over the dramatic depression-era story of survival? Wait until they’re 20. They’ll BEG for artful movies showing the human spirit in adverse conditions. BEG.