Family Movies Rule
And so, I found it rather surprising, and extremely heartening, to learn that not one A-list celebrity actually starred in any of 2004’s top 5 grossing movies—at least their bodies didn’t, unless you count Mel Gibson’s hand nailing Jesus to the cross. No, the top five movies were not typical Hollywood fare at all. They were: Shrek 2; Spiderman 2; The Passion of the Christ; The Incredibles; and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Notice anything about that list? Not only is there no Brad Pitt, no Jennifer Aniston, and no Tom Cruise; four of the movies are actually for kids. And The Passion? Not for children, but it certainly does touch on a taboo topic for Hollywood.
Indeed, each of 2004’s most popular movies deals with a good vs. evil theme. Everything’s black and white, and you’re supposed to root for the good guys. Shrek 2 perhaps does this the least, yet even there morals are still front and centre. I was rather disappointed, though, at the dearth of quotable lines. The original Shrek was filled with memorable stuff—"ogres have layers", "only a true friend would say something that truly honest", "do you think he’s compensating for something?". But what can you quote from Shrek 2? Nevertheless, enough of us loved the movie that it was ranked number one.
If you believe the press from Hollywood, such a thing should be impossible. Their standard line is that they only make violent, tasteless and crude movies because that’s what we want to see. This list shows that’s a lie. And they don’t touch religion because no one would show up. I think Mel Gibson’s bank account—and the many charities he supports—are laughing about that one right now. Hollywood makes disgusting movies because most people in Hollywood are interested in those types of things. You just don’t tend to get family values people down there, and so you don’t tend to get family values movies made. Yet when one comes along from a smaller studio—think My Big Fat Greek Wedding a few years ago—it makes a mint.
Why do family movies rule? Most people with kids actually enjoy an outing to the theatre together—if it’s worth it. And few of us adults are going to spend $25.00, not including popcorn, to go see a bunch of cars getting blown up. We want compelling stories.
Mel Gibson gambled that most people wanted to watch something that mattered, and he was right. So did the founders of Pixar, who now have another huge family values hit with The Incredibles. It’s all about how much better life is when parents and kids all support each other and work together. Indeed, family solidarity is the big theme in almost everything they make. At one point in this latest film, the two older children are waiting for their parents to return. Violet turns to Dash and says, "don’t you realize Mom and Dad’s lives could be in danger? Or worse—their marriage!"
Are the larger studios catching on to this trend? There are doubtful signs, chief among them the fiasco Alexander, which bombed because, instead of making a sweeping military epic, they focused on everyone’s odd sexual proclivities. Nevertheless, this year did have more G movies than any other year I can remember. And In Good Company, a new movie that’s out now, isn’t exactly Oscar material, but in it the hero is the stable dad who’s got a mortgage and a family, rather than the flamboyant playboy.
For most of us, morals and relationships truly matter. Because of that, we relate much better to Elastigirl or Frodo or Peter Parker than we do to some spoiled actress whose fourth marriage has fallen apart. So now that we’re finally getting choices about what we watch, the Hollywood histrionics crowd may not command so much attention. Soon society may realize that the People That Matter aren’t staring at you from some magazine cover. They’re sitting around your dinner table. And life’s a lot better that way.