Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What's great about being a kid

We had a bonus family movie night last night.

The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Not the 1935 version with Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon, and Raymond Massey as the villainous Chauvelin.

Black and white movies are not popular with members of this household under the age of 11.

We watched a made for TV version from the 1980s starring Anthony Andrews, a strangely unbeautiful Jane Seymour (must have been the wigs), and, as Chauvelin, Ian McKellen, looking disconcertingly young and boyish for Gandalf and even more disconcertingly like a young Leonard Nimoy as Spock without the pointed ears.

It wasn't bad. The teenager enjoyed immensely and wants to read the book. The ten year old hated it.

"That was the boringest family movie night ever," he said as he was climbing into bed.

"You didn't like it at all?" I asked.

"I liked some of the rescue parts but the rest was all talk talk talk. No action."

He was expecting a real swashbuckler with lots of sword fights. We recently watched Erroll Flynn's Robin Hood. That's his idea of an adventure movie.

Even though I can do a pretty good impression of Leslie Howard reciting Sir Percy's Ode to the Scarlet Pimpernel---"They seek him heyah, they seek him theyah, those Frenchies seek him everywheyah..."---I don't remember much else from Howard's Pimpernel, which, because I saw the movie when I was a kid, I suspect must mean that it didn't have enough action in it either or it would have impressed my ten year old self more and stuck with me.

In the version we watched last night the main dramatic tension is in whether or not Sir Percy and Margueritte will ever learn to trust each other again and whether or not the oily Chauvelin will coerce Margueritte into helping him capture the Pimpernel, a subplot that would have had more zing if Margueritte liked Chauvelin and was attracted to him and, in her hurt and loneliness at being rejected by her husband, she was tempted to turn to him for "comfort." She's doesn't, isn't, and wouldn't, not in a million years, even if he was the last man on earth, so Seymour and McKellen's scenes have a "You must pay the rent!" "I can't pay the rent!" quality to them that's decidely unsexy and even less suspenseful.

"Did you like it?" the ten year old asked.

"I thought it was pretty good," I said. "I wish there'd been a few more swordfights too though."

"Did Matt really like it?" he asked.

"He says he did."

"How come?" He couldn't believe his brother could have enjoyed a movie that didn't have the required amount of swordfights or gunplay and featured instead all that kissing and sighing.

"He's a teenager now," I said. "He's becoming more interested in the characters. He wants to know what grown ups are like. He's trying to figure out how to be one so he's paying more attention to what's called the psychological aspect of stories."

"That's what's great about still being a kid," the ten year old kid said.

"What's that?"

"You don't have to deal with all these new aspects."


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