A review, in which a father takes full responsibility for not reading the reviews before entering the theater.
This past Friday, my wife and I picked up the kids from their Catholic grade school in Alexandria, Virginia. As the two girls were being dropped at a friend’s house for the day, we decided (on the spur of the moment) to surprise the boy with a trip to the movies. We figured “Land of the Lost” would be harmless enough for an eleven-year-old boy and might provide a few laughs for the adults.
All you need to know is that I was compelled to ask, “What the heck is this rated?” within the first five minutes of the movie. Kids, this was not your father’s “Land of the Lost.” I might have only been about my son’s age when the Sid & Marty Krofft TV show was a Saturday morning staple 30 years ago, but I am 100% sure that I would have remembered it if one of the characters had dropped the F-Bomb.
For 45 minutes, we sat and squirmed and waited for the laughs to come. Instead, we were treated to the little ape man Chaka repeatedly fondling the heroine’s breasts, the dirty sidekick getting hot over two Slestaks of unknown gender preparing to, in his words, “tap that ass,” an extended homoerotic drug scene involving the two male leads and Chaka, and our hero Will Ferrell letting loose with the aforementioned F-Bomb as in “F#!k you, Chaka.” By the way, the movie is rated PG-13. My wife and I were shocked that for the sheer abundance of sexual references, filthy language and breast fondling, it didn’t merit a solid R from the MPAA.
As the parents, we were faced with a dilemma — how best to handle this delicate situation. The theater was packed with teenagers. Our son must have already felt a little embarrassed to arrive with Mom and Dad. To get up and leave might have been worse than grinding it out. I know some of you more perfect parents are thinking, “What dilemma? I’d have stormed out at the first dirty word!” But I’ll hazard a guess that you also would not have been thinking that at 11 years old, your kids are hearing and seeing worse on the school bus. And since we’ve established that our kids (like their parents before them) hear it on the bus or in the cafeteria or in the dugout, then you must accept the possibility that your kids have uttered a few of these choice words themselves. It’s what they think about it all that counts. That’s where the parenting comes in.
At any rate, I kept a close eye on my boy. He’s a smart kid. We talk about these things at home. We talk about language and why gentlemen don’t use dirty language in mixed company or in front of children. I tell him that on occasion, I’ve let loose with a few choice words, but that I strive to use it sparingly. He’s even asked about sex and I’ve been honest about it. Unsurprisingly, he’s never dissolved into a pile of dust. He just feels more comfortable talking to us about whatever is on his mind.
So, at about the 45 minute mark in the movie, he turned to me and said, “We don’t have to stay for any more of this.”
I replied, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, this is awful,” he said.
So we got up and walked out. My wife told me to go and ask for a refund. I told her that it was my fault for not checking the reviews, not the theater’s for not posting a warning.
I learned two valuable lessons that were well worth the $28.00. First, always read the reviews no matter how innocent a movie may seem from the ads, previews or ratings. Second, my son is a very smart boy.
As we were walking out he turned to us and said, “That was dirty, awful and disrespectful to women. It was disrespectful to Mom.”
Good kid, my son. Smarter than his father.
As soon as I got home, I fished out the newspaper and found the reviews. For once, the reviews were as bad as the movie. I also found out that because my son had the maturity to walk out, we missed being treated to the sight of Will Ferrell being eaten by a T-Rex and subsequently excreted by said dinosaur. I owe the boy big time.
Note to Hollywood, most parents will not be as forgiving as I am. I only hope that most eleven-year olds would have the guts to get up and walk out on the crap that Hollywood has grown accustomed to shoveling at them.
Mark Corallo is a partner in Corallo Comstock, Inc, a public relations firm based in Alexandria, Virginia.