Before I had a child, I liked to tell myself I’d be one of those cool dads who took his son to fancy foreign movies and difficult, urgent theatre. So far, this has not come to pass. If anything, I’ve stood by as he has endured some of the worst entertainments ever create, while myself becoming addicted to some of the best – like Hey Duggee and Bluey – to which he has introduced me.
I didn’t get to take my son to his very first cinema trip, which was to see Paw Patrol: The Movie a few months ago. I was either on a big deadline, or else had pitched something so that its deadline would mean I didn’t have to sit through Paw Patrol: The Movie, but either way my wife got to see the joy on his face at discovering that they put Ronan Keating and Kim Kardashian together in a film about libertarian dogs.
Well, this week I had my turn, and decided I would take him to see Raya and The Last Dragon, a charming Disney animation that was, admittedly, slightly above his age rating. It was either that or watch the Paw Patrol movie again.
It reminded me of my own first cinema trip. I was five when my older brothers Dara and Shane were tasked with bringing me to see The Rescuers Down Under, a film about heroic mice who, for reasons best forgotten, travel to Australia to perform moderately thrilling aerial rescues.
Since my brothers were 15 and 13, respectively, they decided I should instead be brought to watch Suburban Commando, a desultory action-adventure in which their wrestling hero, Hulk Hogan, played an intergalactic bounty hunter who shot people with massive guns and, for some reason I can’t quite remember, rode a skateboard. In all the years since, I have never seen Rescuers Down Under.
I am willing to believe it is a better film than Suburban Commando. To be fair, I’ve been on Zoom calls that were a better film than Suburban Commando. But I’ve never forgotten that moment of pure elation, surprise and delight I got from that first trip to the movies, of watching people projected very large, in a dark room. Of feeling that the events unfolding in front of me were among the most important things that had ever happened, and that Hulk Hogan was very likely one of our finest living actors.
If my son had any feelings that specific about Raya while we watched on Saturday, I’m not sure. I just know that he sat, open-mouth smiling and captivated for two full hours, without once expressing a desire to leave. ‘That film was GREAT,’ he said at the end. I beamed with delight that he’d fallen for the big screen in front of me, and we had a moment to share for ever more.
‘And Daddy, when we get home,’ he asked, as we sat on the bus. ‘Yes,’ I replied, already preparing a double bill of approved classics in my head. ‘Can we watch Paw Patrol?’
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