Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)


Rated: PG for mild action and brief language
Length: 105 minutes
Grade: CB+CC=C
Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $452 million (177 U.S., 235 Intl., 50-est-DVD)

Written by: Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (Co-Writers of Reno 911, Balls of Fury, Night at the Museum, The Pacifier, and Taxi)
Directed by: Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Pink Panther, Cheaper by the Dozen, Just Married, and Big Fat Liar)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, and Robin Williams, with Christopher Guest, Jonah Hill, and Ricky Gervais.

Summary:
The magical comes-to-life museum from the first movie has come alive again, only this time a resurrected Pharaoh and his egomaniacal Axis of Evil (Al Capone, Ivan the Terrible, and Napoleon Bonaparte) want to conquer the world with the dark arts of the Tablet of Ahkmenrah. Thankfully, Larry-the-guard-turned-inventor-slash-infomercial-king is there to fight them off with the help of Ameila Earhart and his old friends.

Entertainment Value: C
This movie had moments of hilarity, mostly in the dialogue between Stiller and Jonah Hill or in Hank Azariah’s monologues (surely written by Lennon). But the rest of it was yet another example of patchwork plot with lots of expensive effects thrown on top in an effort to hide the mystery meat under enough gravy that kids will be entertained into enjoying it multiple times. This did not work. In what is perhaps the most devastating commentary possible: my boys were bored by it. But who am I to argue with the $400+ million box office? I’m Andrew Tallman, that’s who!

Superficial Content: B+
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A-, Violence B+, Language B+
There were a couple of semi-scary scenes, but “semi-“scary is the important bit. At best, this is slapstick humor and fun action, like in the Air and Space Museum. I think there were two D-words in the movie, although I should warn you the previews actually have two donkey A-synonyms. But mostly it’s almost a G movie. As I said, our kids (3 and 5) watched it.

Significant Content: C
It’s important to do something you love rather than something that makes you money. History is fun, and “comes to life” with a little imagination rather than with a little modern technology. Dictators are dumb. Friendships really matter. And technology is bad because it makes people love the next big distraction rather than a less heavily marketed past good thing.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
The trick to writing comedy is to make jokes you don’t have to explain and to then trust that they don’t need explaining. In this movie, the jokes were either bad because they needed explaining or they were good ones ruined with clumsy added explanations. Plot first. Plot first. Plot first. Then add big effects. How many times do I have to repeat this message?

Discussion Questions:
~This movie portrays various historical tyrants as being buffoons and semi-intelligent. How likely is it that Napoleon or Ivan the Terrible were such dimwits? What about General Custer?
~Are cell phones really as annoying as this movie makes out? How are cell phones used in this movie as a symbol of modern society?
~Are people losing their imagination and their patience with old-fashioned things like museum displays? Is a movie with all these effects and such a poor plot really a good vehicle for making that argument?
Is it true that the only valid reason to do something is because you love it? Why do you think this idea is so fashionable today? Larry has made millions by selling people seemingly trivial inventions, but if millions of people are paying him for those, are they really not making lives better off? Is the “do what you love rather than what you can make money at” idea anti-capitalist? Is it disrespectful to the people who would pay money for something?
~If you could change anything about our society so as to improve children’s imagination, what would you do?
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Overall Grade: C
I really don’t have any good ideas about how to make this better, but my wife and my kids and I were all basically bored by it.

Terminator 4: Salvation (2009)


Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language.
Length: 115 minutes
Grade: CCCD=C
Budget: $200 million
Box Office: $407 million (125 U.S., 247 Intl., 35-est-DVD)

Written by: John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris (Co-writers of Primeval, Catwoman, Terminator 3, The Game, and The Net).
Directed by: McG (We Are Marshall, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Charlie’s Angels)
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin, and Michael Ironside.

Summary:
John Connor is an officer in the resistance against the machines, who must try to find and save his father, Kyle Reese, and decide what to do with a cyborg who believes he’s actually human.

Entertainment Value: C
Begin by understanding just how much I love the Terminator universe. I’ve read the book. I’ve seen all the movies and the TV series. I even own most of the comic book adaptations of Terminator. So, needless to say, I was excited to see this movie. But all that expectant joy turned to despair as a virtually plot-free movie based on a silly hypothesis took the future world I love and reduced it to incoherent and mind-numbingly senseless big action sequences. John Connor survives two helicopter crashes, one (possibly two) nuclear blasts, and is in the fight of his life with a rifle currently in existence (the HK416) instead of a plasma rifle against machines more advanced than the CSM-101 just barely being developed at the end of the movie? Can I buy one ounce of consistency? I spent the whole movie trying to figure out the rules and the place of this movie in the Terminator universe. And I never got a good answer.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A-, Violence C, Language C
This movie is full of violence and action. It’s rightly PG-13 for that alone. Language was a handful of medium profanities, and one barely-audible F-word, also just right with PG-13 these days. A CGI Arnold is shown partially naked at the end. Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird for a whole franchise to opt for going from R to PG-13 ratings?

Significant Content: C
Machines we create to serve us can become dangerous if we allow them to become self-aware. Whenever we are engaged in a fight to preserve either humanity or civilization, we must fight in such a way that we don’t lose either in the process of defending them. The only fate we have is what we make for ourselves. Real humanity is in how you behave, not in what you’re made of.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
Here’s the basic problem. McG doesn’t understand the nature of science fiction. The idea and the story come first and are the basis of everything. Then, creating a coherent world around the novel premises of the story gives you a place to insert special effects, which are completely secondary to everything else. McG suffers from Michael Bay syndrome: “If you spend money, you’ll make a big, exciting movie.” No. You’ll make a mediocre action-fest that disappoints those who love the tradition which bore it. I sure hope when James Cameron returns for T5, all this is remedied. But all that being said, I suspect that if this had simply been a free-standing movie without being in the Terminator series, it might have been okay. It also shows the difference between someone making a sequel with his own signature because he loves the originals (like Star Trek) and someone remaking it in his own image while pandering to loyal fans with the insertion of a few hackneyed homages.

Discussion Questions:
~Sarah counsels her son to be careful in fighting Skynet because the machines will use his own humanity against him. Is being human a weakness? In this movie, what things differentiate the humans and the machines?
~John tells his followers that they must refuse to fight like machines because the way we fight makes all the difference to whether we should bother fighting in the first place. How are the rules of warfare important? Is this movie meant to be a commentary on the current conflict with terrorists?
~One of the themes in this movie is trust. How do you decide whom to trust?
~John Connor says there’s no fate but what we make. Do you agree?
~There is an old concept called a Turing Test, in which a person engages with a person and a machine in a conversation, and if he cannot tell which one is which, then the machine is intelligent. How does that idea play out in this movie? What aspects of Marcus’s behavior would you cite to show that he is a human? What aspects that he is not? Is the movie right that the capacity for self-sacrifice is the key identifier of humanity? What about free choice? Does Marcus have freedom, or is he just following his programming? What do you think of his notion of a “second chance?”
~One of the most recurrent themes in science fiction is the danger of beings we create taking over for us (The Matrix, Battlestar Galactica, I Robot, Blade Runner, 2001 A Space Odyssey are modern examples, but the theme goes back to Frankenstein, Modern Times, and Metropolis). Why do we find this theme so appealing to explore? Do you think this could actually happen? Do we seem to be heeding the warnings?
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Overall Grade: C
Even though it’s opening day for Avatar, I already don’t like it because that project kept James Cameron from making this movie, as he should have.

Swing Vote (2008)


Rated: PG-13 for language.
Length: 120 minutes
Grade: DD-DC=D
Budget: $21 million
Box Office: $24 million (16 U.S., 1 Intl., 7 DVD)

Written by: Jason Richman (Bangkok Dangerous and Bad Company) and Joshua Michael Stern (Nothing noteworthy).
Directed by: Joshua Michael Stern (Nothing noteworthy).
Starring: Kevin Costner, Madeline Carroll, Paula Patton, Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Lane, with George Lopez, Judge Reinhold, Mare Winningham, Willie Nelson, and talking heads like Ariana Huffington, Larry King, Bill Maher, James Carville, Tucker Carlson, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Chris Matthews.

Summary:
The daughter of a drunk tries to vote for her father, but a power outage causes the ballot to get stuck. This turns out to be the decisive vote in the Presidential election, and chaos comes to town as the candidates try to persuade him to vote for them.

Entertainment Value: D
This is an example of a movie that could-have-been. Could have been funny. Could have been moving. Could have been persuasive. Could have been entertaining. It’s a total mishmash of ethical questions and a vision of the average American as incompetent that just winds up falling under the weight of it’s own self-importance. Sort of like liberal radio made for the big screen. It saddens me because it really could have been something quite good. It wasn’t.

Superficial Content: D-
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sex/Nudity A, Violence B, Language D
I would have given this an R rating for just the language alone. But apparently the rule is: one F-word and any amount of other profanity is acceptable. Seriously. I don’t normally count, but I had to in this case just to keep it interesting. No less than 15 S-words and about 10-15 other medium profanity. Why? For no reason whatsoever. Also, the main character is continually drinking or drunk and the mother is a former drug-user with mental problems. Adult themes are pretty strong in this movie, which I’m surprised isn’t mentioned in the ratings.

Significant Content: D
Okay, excuse my language in advance, but the only way to describe the message of this movie is as follows. Americans are ignorant rubes, journalists are corpse-feeing vultures, and politicians are whores. And when the electorate are idiots, democracy just can’t work because the leaders will either cater to their lunatic demands or simply lie to them, both of which are bad. America should be embarrassed of itself. Oh, yeah, and one vote matters…just be sure you vote with your heart.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
The beautiful irony of this movie is that while it intends on the one hand to portray the greedy slime-ball characteristics of journalists and politicians, it has sold product placements every ten seconds within the movie itself. Budweiser and Bass Pro Shops are primary sponsors, but Ritz crackers, Old Spice, and Dodge get honorable mentions as well. Aside from this irony, the problem here is a lot the same as the problem with last year’s An American Carol (also with Kelsey Grammer). The trick in movies (and art in general) is to make your point in a way that the audience enjoys seeing you make it and feels like you’ve done so in an innovative and meaningful way. Instead, this movie just seeks to portray every aspect of America as crashing. In short, the root of this movie is contempt for rather than love and respect for American politics. That’s why all the talking heads were liberals (with a squishy Tucker Carlson). There’s just anger and frustration here, without the necessary humility which makes space for humor and self-mockery. I will say this, the best moment in the film is seeing the candidates reverse their long-standing positions, culminating in Dennis Hopper (a pro-choice Democrat) doing an ad which entails children on a playground exploding out of existence to represent the evil of abortion.

Discussion Questions:
~On a 1-10 scale, where a 10 views current politicians as they are portrayed in this movie and a 1 as if they are all virtuous truth-tellers, where do you generally think politicians are? Can you imagine anything worse than the situation this movie portrays? What about dictators?
~Do you think politicians exploit the issues voters care about by promising to work on them but then blaming their opponents for the inability to get things changed? Do you think politicians change their positions merely for electoral gains? How would you verify such suspicions?
~It’s long been held that the precondition of any Republic (representative democracy) lasting is educated, concerned, decent people. What happens when the people fail to be this? Are Americans as bad as this movie portrays?
~This movie is highly critical of journalists who choose money, ratings, and getting the scoop over honor and decency. How much faith do you have in modern journalists?
~Given that the entire premise of this movie is a felony (voter fraud) and then covering that felony up (conspiracy and abetting after the fact), what do you think of the decision to not tell the truth?
~Molly desperately wants a father she can be proud of and respect. What things does she do to try to make this happen? How should she have reacted to having such a louse s a father? What is the Biblical instruction here? Have you ever been disappointed in your parents? How did you handle it? Have you ever felt like you needed to be the parent in your relationship with them? What sort of effects would that have on someone?
~Looking at Molly’s parents, does her character seem a very likely outcome of their relationship?
~The movie clearly wants Americans to be embarrassed of our political ignorance and to reform our ways. Do you think it is effective at persuading us to repent in this way?
~The final moments of the film include a question asking, essentially, “If America is so great, why can’t we afford to live here?” How would you answer such a question?
~If you were making this movie with these themes and purposes, how would you have made it differently?
It’s been said that if you aren’t a liberal before you’re 30, you have no heart, but if you’re still a liberal after that, you have no mind. What do you think?
~Do you believe that every vote counts? Do you think it’s arrogant to say, “I won’t vote because my vote won’t be the decisive one?”
~If you had your preference, would someone like Bud be allowed to vote? If you could have your way, what would you do to improve the quality of the American voter?
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Overall Grade: D
A movie that could-have-been about how politics and journalism should-have-been. It’s nice to see na├»ve optimism and civic responsibility win in the end, but calling this heavy-handed and unproductively depressing would be an understatement.

Funny People (2008)


Rated: R for Judd Apatow. Or, to be more specific, for language and crude sexual humor throughout, and some sexuality.
Length: 146 long, long minutes.
Grade: DHDD=F
Budget: $75 million
Box Office: $62 million (52 U.S., 10 Intl.)

Written and Directed by: Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, 40 Year-Old Virgin) (He also wrote Pineapple Express, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Walk Hard, and Fun with Dick and Jane; and he produced Year One, Step Brothers, Drillbit Taylor, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad, Talladega Nights, Kicking & Screaming, Anchorman.)
Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jason Schwartzman, Jonah Hill, and (rather tellingly) Maude and Iris Apatow.

Summary:
A famous comedian thinks he’s going to die, hires a struggling comic as a joke-writing assistant, changes his life, entices his remarried ex-wife to sleep with him, and then reverts to who he was before.

Entertainment Value: D
There are some moments of comedy in the movie. But I have created a new rule: If any movie has Seth Rogen or Adam Sandler in it or has been touched in any way by Judd Apatow, I will not watch it. Simply put, even the ones that verge on being funny aren’t worth the vulgarity, and most of them aren’t funny. I know this means I’ll miss the occasional Knocked Up or Talladega Nights, but it also means I won’t have to endure all the rest of the trash he produces. You know it’s gotta be pretty awful when even Andrew Tallman can’t stomach watching it anymore.

Superficial Content: H
Drugs/Alcohol F, Sex/Nudity F, Violence C, Language H
I don’t really need to explain this, do I? It’s atrocious, and it should definitely be rated NC-17, if not X. What’s the real point of saying 17 with an adult, 17 only, and 18? This rating system is ridiculous. In what can only be described as a stunning triumph of vulgarity, this movie actually had more F-words per minute than Notorious (151 according to Kidz-in-Mind. And that’s not even counting over 100 other FCC violations. Seriously. As one caller recently encouraged me to say: Just don’t watch this. It’s horrible.

Significant Content: D
I’m not going to bother reviewing it any longer.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
I’m not going to bother reviewing it any longer.

Discussion Questions:
~Seriously…I’m not going to bother reviewing it any longer.
Overall Grade: F
Under no circumstances should you see this movie. Nor should you ever watch another Judd Apatow movie. He’s the Larry Flynt of comedy films. Just consider what sort of person you have to be to allow your own wife and daughters (8 and 11) to star in a movie like this (and also Knocked Up when they were 6 and 9). Now is that the guy whose movies you want to watch? No longer for me.

Henry Poole Is Here (2008)


Rated: PG for thematic elements and some language.
Length: 99 minutes
Grade: BB+AA=A-
Budget: Unknown, maybe $15-20 million
Box Office: $2 million (2 U.S.)

Written by: Albert Torres (First script)
Directed by: Mark Pellington (Mothman Prophecies, Arlington Road)
Starring: Luke Wilson, Radha Mitchell, Adriana Barraza, George Lopez, and Morgan Lily.
Summary: A mysterious and private man buys a house in the neighborhood of his youth and then suffers the indignity of his Catholic neighbor believing the face of Christ is appearing on his exterior wall, which leads to much undue attention.

Entertainment Value: B
This is slow, almost painfully slow, and if I hadn’t had it recommended highly to me by a good friend, I might not even have watched the whole thing. But the movie itself is wonderful, although I totally understand why it only m ade 2 million. It didn’t have a lot of comic moments, it’s about some very serious subjects, and (this is the most important part) the Christian community never knew this film existed so as to support it as they should have.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity A, Violence A, Language B
Henry is an alcoholic, which is a theme in the movie. Otherwise, the only issues here ware with some cursing, particularly religious cursing. PG is clearly the right rating for this movie with adult themes, but this is about as light a PG as you can get. Kids will neither enjoy nor understand this, so it’s more for older audiences anyhow. But there’s no one who’s old enough to benefit from this movie who shouldn’t be allowed to see it.

Significant Content: A (almost an A+)
Okay, here’s the thing, this is a movie about skepticism versus faith wrapped around a plot which is profoundly based on the Gospel. And, as you will suspect, faith wins in the end, not by persuading skepticism of the truth, but by overwhelming skepticism with true Christian redemption and healing. I hesitate to tell you more, only because I want you to see it for yourselves.

Artistic/Thought Value: A (almost an A+)
The only thing keeping this from an A+ was the slightly low entertainment value, meaning that it’s just a bit too difficult to approach and endure all the way until the payoff. If they had found a way to entice us a bit more, I’d give it an A+. Even so, this is a brilliantly crafted movie which slowly develops and reveals even its own premise. And the clash between good-neighbor-atheist and intrusive-but-lovable-Catholic is brilliantly played out.

Discussion Questions:
~Everything Henry does seems to scream that he wants to be left alone. How is he representative of people in our modern culture? What is Christ’s answer to such people?
~Why does Millie tape record conversations? What symbolism is this being used to represent? How is her pain a reinforcement of the condition of our culture?
~What image of clergy is represented here? What does this movie seem to be saying about Catholicism? If Henry is reluctant to believe this seemingly miraculous event, how do you think Protestants who believe in miracles but are otherwise anti-Catholic (Pentecostals, e.g.) will receive this movie?
~What aspects of Henry’s strange behavior eventually make sense to you? Why doesn’t he negotiate the house price? Why doesn’t he want it fixed up? Why do we keep seeing his car with the unrepaired broken windows?
~Why is Henry so motivated to not believe in the miracle? Why is Esperanza so willing to believe in it? What is the driving force behind his skepticism?
~Can you identify some events in your life that you choose to interpret as evidence of God’s activity but which could be interpreted by someone else differently? Are there any which you have refused to acknowledge as coming from God?
~Esperanza is presented as nosy, gossipy, and moderately obnoxious but still very loving and wise. Which sort of neighbors would you rather have, ones like her or ones like Henry? Which sort of neighbor does our culture seem to hold up as an ideal? Would it be unfair to call him a libertarian?
~In how many ways can you compare the final sequence of events with the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is this a Calvinistic movie? What are the effects on people and society which this incursion of Christ effects?
~At one point, Henry tells Esperanza that the only reason she wants him to believe is because that would tend to reduce her own deeply hidden fears that her faith isn’t actually right. He finds her professions to be a power play and a desperate effort to suppress her own doubts. What do you think of these comments? What is the difference between a person who is actually sure of his faiths and someone who wants to believe but has some real doubts?
~If God is really behind the miracle, what is His plan? Are you saddened by the seemingly temporary nature of His activity?
~One of the questions the movie asks is whether hope can save you. What does the movie seem to be saying? What do you say?
~What is the function of the title? Why do people create graffiti? Is there any way to establish our permanence as beings outside of a relationship with God?
~Why do you think the director refuses to give us (the audience) a clear shot of the image? What other elements of frustration from lack of explanations or access to information are used in this movie? What is their purpose?
~Does it affect your view of this movie to know that the director lost his wife in a sudden tragedy and had to care for his toddler girl by himself?

Overall Grade: A-
Just as my friend said, this is a wonderful movie. If you watch it and don’t quite see why I’d say so, feel free to email me. I’ve avoided giving away some insights in this review specifically because I didn’t want to spoil the plot of the movie for you.

Four Christmases (2009)


Rated: PG-13 for some sexual humor and language.
Length: 88 minutes
Grade: A-C-AA=A-
Budget: $80 million
Box Office: $164 million (120 U.S., 44 Intl.)

Written by: Matt Allen and Caleb Wilson (First script for both) and Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (co-writers of The Hangover and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past)
Directed by: Seth Gordon (Some comedy TV and The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters)
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Kristin Chenowith, and Tim McGraw. (Perhaps that absurdly high 80 million went to some of these folks?)

Summary:
Planning to lie to their families and visit Fiji for the holidays, the poster-couple for modernity (no marriage, no children) must confront their own relational stupidities when they are forced to spend Christmas with their four divorce-created families.

Entertainment Value: A-
I had medium expectations for this movie because both of the stars have been unreliable in recent years. But this was funny. Really funny. Even the parts that were included an homage to the Meet The Parents style of stress comedy which I can’t stand were fairly funny. I wish they could have toned down the language, but I’m not sure this film should or could be PG anyhow. Far more entertaining than I expected, despite the plot and the message being obvious from the beginning (perhaps because I knew the end message was going to be so good).

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity C, Violence C, Language C
This movie opens in a bar with a man insulting a woman and then having sex with her in a bathroom stall. If you can stomach that, you can probably handle this movie. Drinking is common. Sexual comments and comedic situations based on sex are common. Slapstick violence is common. And language is at the very upper end of PG-13. I might go R-15 for this one. Absolutely not a kids movie. You should also know that church and religious people are essentially portrayed as idiotic.

Significant Content: A
Families, no matter how dysfunctional, are still valuable to us, if for no other reason than that they reveal the real us. When selfish people get their desires, they are only cheating themselves of the greater growth opportunities they connive their way out of. People can deceive themselves into believing anything…for a while. The modern myths about relationships are ultimately empty and unfulfilling. Divorce poisons children against marriage. Even exotic things become boring eventually.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
This movie falls smack into my favorite genre of modern movie: morality plays which truly appeal to the people who most need to watch them. Whatever else you might want to say about Hollywood and film stars in general, they do seem to be grasping for traditional morality more frequently with films like this. Granted, they still make all the other stuff, but when I see something like this, it gives me a glimmer of hope for our country. This film takes the worst possible familial background (double-divorce) and plays that into the archetypal post-modern couple who seems to have it all: success, happiness, and love. And then it uses those horrible families and backgrounds to deconstruct the entire modern relationship edifice a la Sex and the City or Oprah. It’s brilliant, and you could literally preach a half dozen sermons off this movie. Nevertheless, this film does the single most important thing any morality play can do: it refuses to preach those sermons itself. Thus, they’re reached by the audience and easily discussed afterwards. Bravo to such an inexperienced team of creators. I eagerly await more like this.

Discussion Questions:
~Just before they start visiting the families, Kate asks Brad to promise her that no matter what happens, he’ll stay with her in the end. He says, “Of course.” Why does she ask for that promise? Why does he give it? How is that promise related to marriage vows?
~When they are planning their Fiji trip, Kate remarks to Brad that this trip seems like all of their other trips, and he tries to convince her that scuba in Fiji will be different from other scuba. What idea is she getting at? What is it about always getting the best of everything that makes you eventually not enjoy it so much? Why are movies that always turn out well so bland, and especially so if there’s no real conflict in them? How do vacations like they normally take compare with family interactions? In what ways would you say Brad and Kate’s relationship is just like these vacations? How is marriage more like the family holiday? Which one is more pleasurable? Which one is better for us?
~Discuss some of the ways in which being around their families actually benefitted both Brad and Kate? How useful were their families for revealing their true selves to the other person? Why is it important to meet and know people’s families early in a relationship?
~Dishonesty by omission (hiding uncomfortable or embarrassing truths about ourselves) is a big theme in this movie. How does that allow Brad and Kate to have the relationship they have at the beginning. How does it prevent real love from having a chance to develop between them? What is the relationship between such deception and performance anxiety in a relationship? How is honesty related to unconditional love?
~When the truth about each of them comes out, it seems likely to ruin the relationship, but it turns out that only Kate’s changing desire for permanence does so. How do you think the exposure of their flaws and the love which comes from this was related to Brad’s ultimate decision to accept Kate on her more permanent terms? If he had neither known and accepted her flaws nor had her do the same to him before that division occurred, would he have been more or less likely to have come back?
~What lessons does this movie have to teach us about divorce and its impact on people?
~Why would these two lie to their families? What do they want to keep by making the lie that they feel they would be risking if they told them the truth about their vacation plans? What does this reveal about them? Why are they willing to tell total strangers what’s going on?
~To what degree is Brad’s monologue about avoiding kids and avoiding marriage representative of this modern culture’s attitude toward families? Would you say he’s at least consistent that no kids means no marriage? Would you say he’s being wiser than the people who get married intending to not have kids or to delay them significantly?
~Even though this movie presents both their parents and religion as dysfunctional, would you say that it ultimately says they are good and useful nevertheless? How is the typical approach of trying to show that church and family have no flaws both less honest and less effective?
~Families are involuntary relationships, and the holidays are often times when we’re required to be with them. How are both of these aspects of families beneficial to us?
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Overall Grade: A-
As I said, this certainly entertained me, it has great lessons to teach, and it actually gives me hope that in and among the vulgarity of modern filmmaking, some people are really doing their part to make a difference in the right direction for our ailing society.