Indulge me for a minute — it’s Christmas. Back when I was a little nipper, me and some mates took a rare trip into the City (“Up London” we called it) to see what we thought was going to be the biggest movie event of our lives so far. At the Odeon Marble Arch (supposedly the biggest screen in Europe!) we sat ourselves in the middle of the front row and prepared to be blown away. By TRON.
It was the first film to contain computer generated effects and graphics and the first to make a direct appeal to the nascent home computer generation who would go on to define our future. The idea of being sucked inside a computer to play the games for real didn’t do much for me but the metaphoric idea of losing oneself in the Grid (or the Net as we came to call it)? That had a lot more appeal.
Now, 28 years later, we get the inevitable re-boot and we get to see whether the current generation of teenagers will be carried away the way that we were back in 1982. As I wrote in my Avatar review this time last year, sometimes a movie just has to be a ride — a noisy, thrilling fun-fair ride — and TRON: Legacy makes a decent fist of that. It certainly doesn’t hold up to much logical scrutiny.
The inventor of the video game TRON, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), has been missing for more than 20 years and while his company has grown in his absence, his son (Garrett Hedlund) has lost his way. One night he is summoned to the old spacies’ parlour by a mysterious message. There he discovers the portal into the Grid, where his father has been trapped all this time. The Grid is populated by millions of slave programs led by Clu, a program developed by the older Flynn to do the heavy lifting of designing the Grid but now gone rogue.
Young Flynn has to find Old Flynn (played with a nice nod to The Dude by Bridges) and get him out before Clu and his army destroys our world. Like I say, it doesn’t make much sense but the ride is OK, aided by a sensational soundtrack by Daft Punk — choosing them was easily the best decision made by a big Hollywood blockbuster movie this year.
Eight hours after I filed my “2010 Year in Review” piece for this paper (hitting the streets on Jan 5 kids) I saw The Kids Are All Right and wished I could have mentioned it in my list of favourites. Remind me to include it next year, I’m sure it will still be just as good.
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are a happily married lesbian couple with two beautiful, moderately well-adjusted, kids living happily in sunny California. When teenage son Laser (his name is the first clue that all may not be well in this house) persuades his older sister to find the identity of the sperm donor who provided the seed for them both he introduces a dangerous wildcard into all their lives.
Actually he’s not that dangerous, more a random force of ignorant goodwill. Played by the great Mark Ruffalo, Paul is an organic restaurateur and market gardener, a free-living, “don’t tie me down” sort of dude who discovers that he quite likes the children he never knew he had. While Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and sister Joni (Mia Wasikowska from Alice in Wonderland) are getting used to having a father figure around, his arrival is opening up some of the cracks in Bening and Moore’s relationship and testing plenty of their assumptions about what constitutes a family.
What I liked about The Kids Are All Right is that, for a change, every character is a decent rounded imperfect human being, trying to do the right thing in a world where the answers aren’t simple or easy, where relationships require hard work and forgiveness and where the best of intentions have unintended consequences. A bit like life, then.
The Kids Are All Right is funny, intelligent, warm and superbly acted by everyone involved and it gets a 100% recommendation from this reviewer. Happy Christmas.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 22 December, 2010.