Friday, December 27, 2013

Combo pack strikeout

My son has so many different ways he can get entertainment content delivered to him, I haven't been so worried lately about keeping our video library populated.

However, a three-disc combo pack of kids movies recently made me reconsider, and since I saw it during my Christmas shopping season, I gave it to him as a Christmas present.

The trick with these combo packs is to like all three of the movies. Since they are often thrown together somewhat randomly -- by studio, or by theme, but only generally -- it's no easy task. You might love two of them, but a rotten third spoils the whole basket.

So it was the unique combination of three worthy kids movies -- ones we didn't already own, at that -- that caused me to pull the trigger here.

As you have certainly divined from the art to this post, the three in this particular pack were Open Season, Surf's Up and Monster House. I like all three of these movies, and on a good day, I might almost say I love them.

Finding three movies you like is just the first part, though. The price also has to be right. At $13, the price was about as right as it gets in Australia.

Since my son watched the entirety of The Pirates! Band of Misfits on Christmas day, I was all the more heartened about a potential Boxing Day viewing of one of these other three. So when he tired of the normal Thursday morning repertoire on ABC 4 Kids, I was there at the ready.

My first mistake was letting him choose which one to watch.

At this point I should probably tell you that although I do like all three of these movies, that's quite a different thing from thinking they're all appropriate for a kid who just turned three years and four months on Christmas.

The one I had my doubts about was Monster House. It's animated alright, but it's pretty intense for kids. I remembered the titular house contorting itself into all kinds of menacing shapes, its front door a gaping maw ready to eat little children.

My son falls into the category of "little children."

Needless to say, that was the one he chose.

"This is a scary one," he said, before anything scary had even happened.

Uh oh.

"Should we watch something else?"


My son doesn't have an Australian accent yet, but he has started saying the word "no" as if it were a question. And though the tone may sound uncertain, the meaning is anything but. He liked the fact that it was a little bit scary.

Then, actual scary things started happening. I remembered the house, but I had forgotten that a creepy neighbor, voiced by Steve Buscemi, is also in this movie. And he's not a fake creepy neighbor, like the creepy neighbor with a heart of gold in Home Alone (which my wife and I watched on Christmas night, her for the first time). He's the real McCoy. In the first three minutes of the movie, he screams at a little girl and rips her tricycle in half with his bare hands. He's not fucking around.

Again I asked my son if he wanted to watch the one with the penguins instead. Again came the questioning statement "no."

The next time the neighbor shows up, he holds the lead character (a little boy) up in the air and shakes him, then dies of what would seem to be a heart attack. "This is getting worse every minute," I thought. I already envisioned where this movie would go once the house itself -- something inanimate, inhuman, and therefore much more frightening -- started acting up. I was just asking for three weeks worth of nightmares.

We were just tiptoeing up to the edge of that kind of stuff -- I believe it was the scene where the house's front lawn "consumes" an empty beer bottle -- when my son said "I think we need to watch the penguin one now."


So in went Surf's Up. In the clear, right?

No. See, surfing is scary ... didn't you know?

I don't know whether it was residual fear from Monster House, or whether my son was thrown by the faux documentary style of this movie, or because the movie's initial surfing takes place in the blue darkness of Antarctica, but Surf's Up was now pronounced to be scary as well.

"Okay, how about this one?" I indicated to the third picture on the package, which showed forest animals looking terrified -- but in a way I assumed would translate as funny to my son.

He nodded.

Of course, one of the first things that happens in Open Season is that a bear (voice of Martin Lawrence) tries (in vain) to scare a park ranger. Then my wife waking up distracted my son, and after an exchange with her, he told her that he didn't want to watch this scary movie.

Strike three.

It makes a certain sense. He knows that the movie that scared him is inside this case, the same case as the other two. He may not understand, therefore, that the one with the surfing penguins or the one with the flooming bear are actually different movies.

So in the end, it was not the perfect three-pack combo -- Monster House, the one that interested him the most, was also the rotten apple that spoiled the rest of the barrel.

Well, we'll always have The Pirates! Band of Misfits.


I was all set to leave things there, but I have to come clean and admit that it's now December 27th, and my son is watching Surf's Up in the other room. 

I've also figured out what two of the three movies have in common, in two different ways. Surf's Up and Open Season are both from Sony Pictures Animation, and Surf's Up and Monster House both feature animated characters voiced by Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder.

I don't know what Monster House and Open Season have in common.

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