I’ve been debating for some time now whether to take my 2-year-old son to see Kung Fu Panda. I took his twin sister to see Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! three months ago, and I have always felt that I owed it to him to take him to see a movie, too. But there aren’t all that many family films out there, and DreamWorks has a spotty track record, so I figured I would see Kung Fu Panda for myself first, and then decide whether to take him to it. And … well, I’m still undecided. I like the film quite a bit, and I like some of the “values” it teaches, etc., but … it is a martial-arts movie, and we’re trying to get my boy to stop slapping and shoving people as it is.
So I had to give a laugh of recognition when I came across this article by Associated Press reporter Josh L. Dickey:
There was a moment near the end of “Kung Fu Panda” so satisfying, so achingly adorable, that I wished I’d been secretly taping so as to immediately put it up on YouTube for the world to see.
Sorry, Jack Black — you were great and everything, but that final scene was cold stolen. The thief: my son, just a few weeks short of his third birthday.
As the credits rolled, he sprang from his seat, flashed into the aisle and began to whip himself into a jaw-dropping exhibition of kung fu fury.
Feet planted, his torso twisted and his tiny limbs whirled, locking arms and hands into holding positions that would arch the eyebrow of David Carradine himself.
Thrilling though it was, I had to wonder for a moment whether I’d made a terrible mistake.
Had I been too trusting? Are we blindly marching our kids into these animated movies with little regard for the subject matter or material? Was I too dense to consider whether “Kung Fu Panda” — a martial-arts film, by rights — was even meant for the little ones?
The other reason I’m not feeling bad today is that I know I’m not alone. That theater — and assuredly hundreds more like it — was packed with kids hovering below 3. One father, sitting a few rows up and trading actual karate-chops with his entire brood, made me feel especially self-righteous.
And no, my son wasn’t the only little one who was kung-fu fighting in the aisles when the lights went up. The truth is, they just about all were. Just so happens that when my guy got to whirling and chopping, all the kids who were nearby stopped, retreated and watched in awe.
Hu-ah! That’s my boy.
Incidentally, Dickey also talks about how he let his boy watch the original Star Wars (1977) a while back, which is something I definitely haven’t done yet. I was six or seven years old the first time I saw it myself — and on a big screen, where the pop-up Jawas and Tusken Raiders were especially startling — and my sister was only five, so I imagine I won’t hide it from my kids for all that much longer. But I think it can still wait, for now.
Oh, and speaking of Kung Fu Panda, they say the movie may have earned as much as $60 million this weekend — which is easily the best opening weekend for any animated film that was neither (1) a sequel or spin-off nor (2) produced by Pixar. Among non-Pixar films, it is beaten only by Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006, $68 million), The Simpsons Movie (2007, $74 million), and the two Shrek sequels (2004-2007, $108 million – $121.6 million).