De Groeten van Mike
Do they make good, non-animated films for kids in the US?
Maybe I’m biased. No, I know I’m biased. I root for the underdog. I like small, modest countries. I like films (and books) where I’m drawn to the characters, I know them, I can relate to them, I care about them. I like films with a story.
We had “Film Avond” (movie night) tonight and we watched De Groeten van Mike (Greetings from Mike). At first, my kids weren’t very into it. They pleaded to watch something else. Remember, I’m the guy who only puts Dutch movies on the iPod for long car trips. I’m the bilingual dictator. Yeah, uh, no, we’re not changing the movie.
Sure, no car chases, no explosions, no battles. In fact, it was the other extreme: a 10-year old boy with Leukemia is in the hospital. His roommate was in a car accident and will never walk again. Oh, Mike’s mother is an alcoholic and his father is … who knows. Sounds like a real edge-of-your-seat kid-friendly adventure! Woo hoo! Who’s making popcorn? We kept watching.
Things for Mike aren’t going very well. He lives in a hospital after all. And has Leukemia. The DVD was broken into halves and it just stopped at one point. The kids went nuts that it stopped. I thought they didn’t like it? We watched the second half and when it was over even watched all of the special features–including the über-hip rappy hit by some 10-year-old-or-so Dutch boy (clip below).
So am I just old school? Do I want my kids to watch Lassie and Rin Tin Tin? Should I just go farther back and get them into silent movies? For me, the number one factor in choosing movies for the kids is that they’re in Dutch. I almost don’t care what the film is. Bonus? It’s not just a dubbed English film, but a locally produced Dutch (or Belgian) film. Why? They get to see Holland, the characters there, their accents, lifestyle, etc. We don’t live there, I have to get it from somewhere. When we’re in Holland, I do also buy the Dutch dubbed versions of US movies, I even bought the entire 6-DVD series of Harry Potter.
After the movie, they talked about Mike. They were happy (spoiler alert!) that his mother stopped drinking, went into a clinic, and was able to take her son back in after three months. They really liked his friend Vincent and were concerned that he would never walk again, but didn’t dwell on it.
My older son is very much effected by relationships in films and books–and real life. 😉 He was very concerned for Mike that his mother didn’t want him anymore (this is what Mike felt). He was annoyed at her for her drinking and that she couldn’t get it together well enough to care for him. OK, had enough plot? Do you get why I find this important that we’re watching this instead of Avatar? After those movies, they only talk about the special effects and how many things exploded and how many battles there were. After this film we talked about how Mike’s mother really did love him and wanted to be with him, but she needed to stop drinking.
Is this too heavy for a 9-year old? Well, maybe. Should we just watch Thomas the Train (well, Thomas de Trein … ;-))? My mom gave me so many carrots that my gums were so hard that my tooth couldn’t come out. Did I eat cupcakes as soon as I got to college? Sure. Do I love carrots today? I’m practically a bunny.
Do we shape our kids lives? Whether we choose to or not? Deliberately or not? Absolutely.
So why not be deliberate?
I know you’ve been waiting patiently. Here’s your 10-your old rockstar. His name is Brett. I looked him up. I’m pretty sure we’ll have him on our iPhone by week’s end.
Update: I had no idea if this was a good film (as per media reviews etc.), we just brought it home from Holland because it was available and it was in the store, in Dutch, made in Holland and for kids. Turns out it gets excellent reviews over at IMDB. Yes, 7.1 (out of 10), but if you look at the age breakdown, the under-18 crowd gives it a 9.4. The target audience. Then I see that it was nominated for the Best Dutch Youth Film from the Rembrandt Awards. It won the nomination for the Dutch Golden and Platin awards for some of the actors.