Sunday, July 31, 2005

Movie Weekend

It's rare that we get to the movie theater twice in a weekend, but we just did, and I'm happy to report that the trips were worth it.

Yesterday, we took our daughter to see the summer's biggest sleeper hit, "March of the Penguins," a documentary on par with "Winged Migration" as the best and most masterful nature stories ever filmed.  This one is about the emperor penguins that live on Antarctica and their annual march from the edge of the sea onto the ice and to their breeding ground 70 miles away.  Like the flightless birds, the film crew had to endure horrific cold of well below -50F, windstorms with gusts up to 100mph, and the tendency of some of the penguins to hog the camera (in much the same way small children are drawn to the lens, like Kirstie Alley to a buffet).

Seeing the penguins marching single file, like a thousand tuxedoed Dan Hedayas, adds some levity, but also some understanding of the heartbreaking natural instinct these animals are born with and can't resist.  They simply must get to the breeding ground, find a mate, procreate, protect their egg until it hatches, and then part, never to see the other family members again.  As always, Morgan Freeman does a nice job with the narration -- I could almost hear him repeating his "Shawshank Redemption" line as a mantra for the penquins, "Get busy living, or get busy dying."

Today, I took my daughter and a friend to see "Sky High," the live-action comedy about superhero parents and their high school freshman offspring.  It's a cross between "The Incredibles," "Mean Girls," and "Spy Kids," but ultimately stands on its own as a nice piece of family entertainment.  The comparison to those other movies isn't an insult. "Sky High" is made from the same cloth, with enough cleverness to keep parents watching while teens and tweens enjoy the high school story.

Kurt Russell does a very good job as dad, The Commander, and even looks genuine in his superhero costume aside Kelly Preston as Jetstream, the mom.  These are the kind of superheroes who, like Superman, disguise themselves as mild-mannered alter egos by putting on a pair of glasses to keep the public from knowing their true identity.  Add in a nice turn by Dave Foley as a former sidekick who now trains up-and-coming sidekicks, a still-looks-good appearance by Lynda Carter, some winning teen actors, and a hefty dose of special effects, and you have fun for the whole family.

Unfortunately, Disney hasn't given "Sky High" nearly the promotion it deserves.  If they'd pushed this one even half as hard as that lame Lindsay Lohan "Herbie" remake, judging by the reaction of the two 11-year-olds sitting next to me, they'd have a big summer hit on their hands.