May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
April 19, 2010
They’re adorable, sure.
But do we have to stop there?
Within the last week, I’ve seen a full-length feature film about newborn babies (appropriately called Babies) – and a full-length feature film about the pets who survived Hurricane Katrina (MINE).
Remarkably, the three-plus hours involved did not turn me into a raving cynic. Instead of immersing me in stifling cuteness, both films were surprisingly thought-provoking, well-crafted, and worth recommending.
The one-two punch of these films left me thinking about how rarely I see a movie in which babies and critters aren’t exploited for their cuteness. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean to equate human infants and pets. I only mean to point out that we tend to give both character categories the same insultingly narrow treatment.
I’m hard-pressed to think of films in which infants or toddlers are treated as much more than a joke or an inconvenience. I’m not asking for them be to portrayed as sophisticated personalities; that’d be a stretch. But in the real world, babies demand respect. Why aren’t they given more respect at the movies?
Can you think of a film in which a toddler was taken seriously? Half-seriously?
In the same way, I’m having a hard time thinking of movies in which cats and dogs are treated as much more than comic relief. They’re a dash of “cuteness” to entertain the audience, usually. They’re onscreen so that they can adorably cover their eyes with a paw whenever human characters do something embarrassing. They’re shown escaping disaster, so audiences will cheer. Or, as in most animated films, they’re really representing human behavior, rather than causing us to think about the experiences of animals.
Thank God for MINE, a documentary that takes dogs seriously. The movie isn’t without its sentimental flourishes, but it treats God’s creatures as individuals deserving of respect and compassion. They’re shown to have tremendous influence in the lives of their caretakers. Here’s the trailer for MINE at FilmMovement.com. (The movie opens at the Pickford theater in Bellingham, Washington for a short run this week, and it’s available to subscribers of Film Movement.) Check it out if you get the chance, even if you aren’t a pet owner.
I’ll be reviewing both of the aforementioned movies soon. But before I do, I’m asking for your help:
Can you think of examples in which babies or pets are included for reasons other than cheap laughs?
Can we come up with enough titles to appease the angry hordes of disgruntled toddlers and insulted puppies who may be, even now, plotting their revenge?
Jeffrey Overstreet watches far too many movies, writes film reviews and two weekly columns for ChristianityTodayMovies.com, maintains the Web site LookingCloser.org, contributes to Paste Magazine, and is at work on a series of novels. He works at Seattle Pacific University.