Got this in from Netflix yesterday, watched it last night. There were many, many laugh out loud moments, and overall it was quite funny despite its shortcomings. I think a lot of it has to do with the charm of Luke Wilson as the star, but it also helped that we were prepared to enjoy it no matter what.

The premise is that stupid people breed at an incredible rate, while intelligent ones have fewer children or none at all. The illustration of this at the beginning is pretty hilarious. So. . .Wilson’s character, a man chosen for his complete averageness in every regard to participate in a cryogenics experiment which goes on for 500 years longer than expected, wakes up to find himself in a world in which he’s the smartest man on the planet. He goes from being a fugitive to Secretary of the Interior under a president who’s a former pro wrestler and porn star in a script that’s essentially a bunch of jokes and skits tied together into a plot, which is why the humor is a bit spotty. The good bits are well worth sitting through the less amusing ones.

Now, the night before, we sat down with “Forbidden Planet”. We’re trying to watch movies that are influential and referential in popular culture, so that when something is mentioned, or spoofed, or is the basis for a story, song, movie, etc., the kids will understand. This means that not only are we exposing them to Hitchcock movies, classics like “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane”, but also stuff like the Brat Pack movies of the 80’s and early SF like “The Andromeda Strain”. Clearly, FP was a necessary part of the education, despite the fact that it’s a silly, silly movie. It had been so long since I’d watched it that I had almost forgotten how truly awful it was. (We kept waiting for Leslie Nielsen to say something funny, too. . .) It gave us the chance to show the kids that “scientific” language at that point just had to sound sciency, because nobody was fact-checking, and how amazing it was to see credits that listed only four guys for special effects. Yeah, it was bad, but now they understand the tie-in between FP and other “The Tempest”-based stories, the Ann Francis reference in the Rocky Horror Picture Show song, who Robbie the Robot is, and why Mom and Dad laughed so hard at “Amazon Women on the Moon”.

While we haven’t yet gotten them to reading much more of the newspapers besides comics and advice (sometimes local news or human interest pieces will attract Carolyn’s attention), we spend enough time talking with them about politics and world events, and explaining (less and less so all the time) what John Stewart or Stephen Colbert are talking about that they’re pretty savvy. Because of my fondness for blogs on the skeptical and scientific sides, I see a lot of news items about, and comments by, parents whose interest in protecting their children from the world is so intense that they want everyone else to follow their lead and get rid of anything in libraries, schools, TV, movies, and government that might taint their precious little ones’ minds. This just seems foolish to me. Just as not learning anything about cancer won’t protect you from ever getting it, not learning about the world will not make the world go away. The people who learn about cancer can do what they need to to avoid the risks, and the people who know about the world know how to protect themselves – and how to make it better. You can’t change things by pretending the bad things don’t exist. You need to understand the bad things, find out how and why they happen, and THEN you know how, not only to avoid them yourself, but perhaps also how to make things better.

At this point in my life, I know that I’m not going to be a major world influence, I’m not going to be famous, I won’t be mentioned, much less extolled, in history books. But I’ve done what I can by reading books to children who might otherwise not have had much interest in reading. I’ve taught children cool little bits of trivia to spark their creative instincts on field trips, projects, science experiments. . .I doubt that anyone but my own children will ever come back to me and say that I was an influence on an important decision in their lives, but I like to feel that somehow an adult telling them what they can do and not what they can’t could put a more positive direction on their lives than any burning, banning, or threats of damnation ever could.

So we watch all these movies, we enjoy them or ridicule them, we talk about their connections to the times in which they were made and their influence on the times afterwards, and watch as our kids’ understanding of all kinds of things grows. They’re armed not by parents who insulate and sheild them, but by their own powerful knowledge. And a pretty darned good sense of humor, too, I’d say.