We live in a terrifying world. Since the days man walked the earth with monster-sized beasts bent on devouring us, something has always lurked in the dark corners and shadows of our minds reminding us of our mortality and the fragility of life. For children, those monsters usually hide under their beds or in their closets at night. But in the daylight, public places filled with people and the protection of policemen – those places are safe.
Then, in the middle of a favorite TV show, a sour-faced news anchor breaks in and lets us know that one of the three casualties of the bombs in Boston was an eight-year-old boy. The monster is out of the closet and staring at us in 65 inches of 1080p high contrast color. HD images of people scattering, smoke billowing, and bloody limbs on gurneys suddenly supply vivid detail to what the monster is capable of doing. And, by the way, if it is a terrorist, the monster could be visiting your town next week when the next big athletic event in the U.S. kicks off just around the corner.
Naturally, my eight-year-old was suddenly very concerned, and asking questions no child should ever have to ask. What’s a terrorist? Why would someone want to blow up trash cans? Are we safe?
It would be so easy to tell her that Boston is a long, long way away and nothing like that could ever happen here. But she’s a smart kid and would figure out soon enough that the “breaking news” about how security was being beefed up around the country and was likely to be tight for the kick off of the MS 150 coming up meant this was possible close to home. Instead, we talked truthfully, though carefully, about how some people in this world seek attention by hurting others. And that’s wrong.
She asked if anything like that ever happened here in Texas. “No, honey, I don’t remember anything like that ever happening here.”
“Maybe that’s because Texans would never let someone do something like that,” she offered.
“Maybe. The good thing about Texans is that our culture is to be kind and to help each other.” It is true that Texans are notorious for being in everyone’s business and are significantly more likely to get involved if they see someone doing something wrong. That is one thing I adore about the culture of the good ol’ South. (You’d be an idiot to try anything too stupid in Texas. Just ask Santa Anna.) And the good people of Boston proved once again yesterday that the capacity to help each other in a crisis isn’t limited to the states bordering the Gulf Coast.
In the midst of the attention-mongering talking heads who repeatedly interrupted our regularly scheduled programming over the past 24 hours to tell us no one knows anything yet, the real story our kids need to hear went largely untold. When your kids ask about the bombing, the best thing to talk about is not just how frightening this tragic event is, but how blessed we are to live in a country that repeatedly rises above. My Texas princess was quick to explain how, if she saw someone putting something weird in a trash can or even trying to steal a purse from an old lady on the street, that she’d go ninja on them and then take them to the police. While I nixed her first plan, I was happy to gush over what a brilliant idea it was to tell the authorities when she saw someone doing anything suspicious.
Although it may not prevent all crime, I guarantee if we all pay a little more attention to what’s going on around us and show just enough bravery to take appropriate action when we see something we know is wrong, we’ll breathe a little bit easier than most of us were on the morning of April 15th.
Let’s face it, the only thing “mysterious” about this cutesy sequel to 2008’s $100M+ adventure to the center of the Earth is the near total failure to explain the absence of “Uncle Trevor” (Brendan Fraser) – short of a one-liner about too many people bailing out on young Sean Anderson, reprised by Josh Hutcherson (RV, Bridge to Terabithia). Okay, and how did Liz Anderson, young Sean’s mom, suddenly transform from blue-eyed blond-haired Jane Wheeler into brown-eyed brunette Kristin Davis of Sex and the City fame? And what happened to all that money young Sean and Uncle Trevor returned with from their first Journey? (Did Uncle Trev split with the dough?) Liz and her new honey, Hank (Dwayne Johnson, more Toothfairy than Walking Tall here), are living in a terribly small Ohio home for a couple with access to the giant diamonds Sean stuffed into his backpack a few years before.
Of course, none of that really mattered to the 7-year-old perched on an unnecessary booster seat next to me as she stuffed her face with popcorn and Welches’ Fruit Snacks. This PG fantasy about giant butterflies, bee rides and miniature sharks was right up her alley. And I must admit that I laughed right along with her at the ludicrous sight of Luis Guzman, (who plays the hapless helicopter-pilot/doting father, Gabato), trying to pick up a multi-ton hunk of gold he’d somehow managed to dig out of volcanic soil with his bare hands in less than an hour. Michael Caine in the role of Sean’s long-lost grandfather, Alexander, was good for the occasional laugh as well.
All in all, this sequel, though completely banal and predictable, is exactly what the elementary school set is looking for in a 3D adventure: some not-too-scary thrills and a whole lot of goo and poop jokes. Seven is about as young as I’d recommend, but if you need to get the kids out of the house and it’s too cold or wet outside for the park, this film is an acceptable alternative…IF you catch the matinee. Honestly, I’d rather have gone with the 3D re-release of Star Wars Episode I, Jar Jar and all, but the kid’s still talking about it so I guess my $17 wasn’t completely wasted.