My 3-year-old daughter, Ava, has recently joined that select class of homo sapiens who are able to watch an entire movie from start to finish.
Earlier trips to the cinema to see “Wall E,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Horton Hears a Who!” followed the same pattern -- she sat, glued to the screen, until whatever ice cream/candy/popcorn had been consumed to the last atom and then she was off, scooting around the theater, sharing her carbo-high with other lucky patrons.
Thus it was, unless we happened to be in an auditorium filled with a tribe of similarly boisterous urchins and frazzled parents, that Clare and I managed to see only about the first 32 minutes of any number of blockbuster family movies released in the past few years.
That’s all changed now. Weaned at home on a steady diet of “Finding Nemo” and “The Little Mermaid,” we’ve graduated Ava to a full feature-length(ish) concentration span.
It’s great for us as cinephile parents, because we’re finally freed from the 22-minute shackles of a Dora’s latest titanic struggle with that pesky Swiper, no longer imprisoned by what is/isn’t going down with Bear in his Big Blue House.
Instead we’re able to ponder, for the 34th time, exactly what it is in the Madagascan biosphere that causes its animals to move it and finally find out, even if it is for the 67th time, what happens once Wall-E and Eve get into space with all those fat humans.
A longer attention span means there are old-school treats, too. As much as I might joke about repetitive viewing trauma, I’ll never tire of seeing Dorothy start her journey to see the wizard (and wonder where does the red brick road go?) or see Pinocchio turn green from smoking and drinking (and thank God he hasn’t been made PC, a la Lucas and Spielberg’s alterations to “Star Wars” and “E.T.”).
Last weekend, prepping to take Ava to see “Bob the Builder: Race to the Finish”, showing early Sunday morning at our local theater, she and I filled in some time running through trailers on my Apple.
This was my way of consoling myself that not long from now, rather than enduring the barely animated British hardware specialist and his similarly inert cronies, Ava and I would be sharing some goodness from Pixar, DreamWorks and the like.
As we watched the promos -- and she issued her delighted demand “Again! Again!” or the fatwa “I don’t like it!” -- I couldn’t help but wonder whether, with NRG and other market-research companies taking hits, my progeny might be gainfully employed as a predictor of box office?
If, as William Goldman proclaimed, “In Hollywood, no one knows anything” then might it not follow that someone who’s not in Hollywood and who, thanks to her age, really knows next to nothing about anything, least of all the movie biz, could feasibly know more than anyone?
Well, it’s just a theory. But as an indicator to any potential clients of Ava’s predictive prowess, I respectfully submit how she sees the second half of ‘09’s animated fare performing at the box office.
1. “Ice Age: Rise of the Dinosaurs.” The winner by a mile. We watched this four times in a row and then went back twice more. It has brand awareness (“Scrrrraaaaaattttt!”) and, better still, this time comes with dinosaurs.
2. “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.” I know, I know, right? Sounds and looks terrible to anyone over the age of 10. But if you’re a tyke what’s not to love about a splattery shower of spaghetti? We did three viewings, back-to-back, of this trailer.
3. “G-Force.” Perhaps due to association with that out breakout rodent-tacular, “Alvin & The Chipmunks,” this was an instant favorite. We had two viewings, and Ava needed repeated assurance that we’d see it -- which I was happy to provide because, truth be told, it looks better than, say, “G.I. Joe”.
4. “Up.” Balloons, as we know, rock kids’ worlds. Old dudes? Not so much. “We’ve seen this one before,” Ava said in a flat tone when Pixar’s promo played. I get the feeling parents’ll love this one and be dragging their kids to it.
5. “Astro Boy.” He’s a boy. He’s a robot. He flies. “I wish I could do that!” says Ava, but she’s happy to move on to the next trailer.
6. “Where the Wild Things Are.” Strangely enough, Ava is into Bob Dylan, but not yet hip enough for Arcade Fire, so the indie noodling on the soundtrack didn’t impress her one bit. She has read the book but didn’t seem to connect it strongly to the trailer, perhaps because Maurice Sendak’s version was so light on “Saving Private Ryan”-like explosions. We watched it all the way through on the condition we could go back for some more “Ice Age.”
7. “Gigantic.” Ava asked for this one because the thumbnail image showed a baby. Forty seconds into the trailer, the penny dropped. “This is for grown ups, isn’t it?” Projected box office from the under-4 market for this indie adoption dramedy starring Paul Dano and Zooey Deschanel: $0. Then it was back to “Ice Age” again.
8. “Julie & Julia.” Following the “Gigantic” debacle, Ava was able to be convinced that the poster featuring two eggs didn’t mean a movie for kids.