There are more than a few movies that I've got queued up in the Netflix for the moment he is old enough to understand and enjoy them. Most of them are just flicks that I loved as a kid. There are a few -- five to be specific -- that I'm going to share with him not just because I love them, but also because they've got a hidden meaning. We parents are all about teaching our kids life lessons. Even though my kid is only six months old, I'm already cobbling together a collection of comics, books, albums, and magazines that I want to share with him. Will he like them all? Probably not. Worse, he could resent me for trying to push my old man crap on him. But a dad has to try.
There are more than a few movies that I've got queued up in the Netflix for the moment he is old enough to understand and enjoy them. Most of them are just flicks that I loved as a kid. There are a few -- five to be specific -- that I'm going to share with him not just because I love them, but also because they've got a hidden meaning. We parents are all about teaching our kids life lessons.
'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory' (Rated G)
The first time I watched 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' was on a rainy afternoon in school. I'd seen the book in the school library numerous times but never picked it because 1) it was a book and 2) I was kid. Books were for learning and I wasn't about to do anything as stupid as that with my free period. I loved the movie so much I ran all the way home from school like Charlie with his golden ticket, and I begged my mom for the movie on tape, the book, and for four sickly grandparents to live in a bed in our kitchen. I got two out of the three wishes -- and let me just tell you, those old people were a pain in the fudge factory.
'Wonka' is the classic tale about how sometimes, just sometimes, the underdog gets a massive break. I'm going to make my son read the book first (I've since learned to love books -- go figure), then we'll watch the movie as a family and eat Scrumdiddlyumptious bars until dad needs bigger sweatpants. It's a world of pure imagination -- and fat pants.
'Rudy' (Rated PG)
I've never been the biggest person in stature in any situation. I'm smaller than average and this always held me back in sports. Well, that and the fact I have no athletic ability. But mostly my height was to blame. I was too small to play football, according to my mother, who refused to sign the waiver release that would allow me to play. Heredity being what it is, my son probably won't be breaking any backboards. He'll probably only grow to be slightly taller than his old man. But I don't want that to stop him from ever trying anything, sports or otherwise.
Rudy is also one of the few movies were men are allowed by law to cry at the end (the others being "Field of Dreams," "The Natural" and, um, "Steel Magnolias"). As the line goes: "You're 5 feet nothing, a hundred and nothing. And you've got hardly a speck of athletic ability ... In this lifetime, you don't have to prove nothing to nobody but yourself." Amen, Rock. Amen.
'Superman' (Rated PG)
From the years 1981 until about 1983, I had the life goal of wanting to be Superman. It was a lofty goal but I already had the outfit and could jump from couch to couch without falling. I was well on my way. Then I slowly started to realize in between good and evil there was this whole murky area of the world where things didn't fall into black/white and right/wrong. I miss being naive.
Superman is the last real symbol of good. Every young kid deserves to feel like the world is a simple place to figure out, the bad guys are obvious and that when things really get bleak there is a man in a cape and tights that's going to come along and save the day. At least for a little while.
'UHF' (Rated PG-13; for more mature audiences)
There are several writers I can reference as being influential in my life. Tom Perrotta made me want to be a writer. J. R. Moehringer made me want to write about my personal life. David Sedaris proves I've got a long way to go. If I'm going to discuss the people that were influential in what I find funny, one of the major early influences was "Weird" Al Yankovic, not just with his music but also with his hysterically underrated and unappreciated flick 'UHF.'
If the movie can teach a kid anything, it's how to laugh at the absurd and not care what anyone else thinks about his crazy ideas. Honestly, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't quote the movie (to myself -- few others would get it, or even chuckle). Luckily, I've got it on DVD. Unfortunately my original VHS copy, along with all my old Weird Al cassette tapes, are living in some New Jersey landfill. (STUPID! I'M SO STUPID!) I just hope my son finds it as funny as I do, and isn't easily distracted by my giggling in the background.
'National Lampoon's Vacation' (Rated R; for older kids only)
One summer, I lived at my grandparents' house, and I was so bored that each day I'd pop in the movie 'National Lampoon's Vacation' and watch it in its entirety -- and then watch it again for the hell of it. In a way, it helped me escape my cousin's bedroom and the loneliness of a summer vacation without my friends by putting me in the car with the Griswolds as they made their trip across country to Wally World. (It's still a life goal of mine to visit the actual theme park used in the movie -- Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California.)
It will be my funny little way of saying that this family, for better or worse, is something my son is stuck with for the rest of his life. There are going to be good times and there will be times when his old man is shooting fat security guards in the leg with a BB gun. In the end, he will always have his family. Isn't that right, Rusty? Rus?
Chris Illuminati is a freelance writer and stay at home dad with a six-month-old baby. You can follow his daily adventures in fatherhood at his site, Message with a Bottle.