I often tell people that my family was like a Norman Rockwell painting. Dad worked, mom cooked, and I had one of each sibling. Usually a hungry cat, bird, or fish was lurking about the dining room table. Napkins were used and different kids mowed different parts of the lawn. I identify pretty strongly with the “Classic Americana” trope.
Which begs the question, which movie family would I trade it all for?
Of course there are some guidelines. First, no television families. Everyone fails my standards miserably. They either try too hard to be cute (see: Full House, The Cosby Show, The Waltons), too dark (any soap opera ever), or too traumatized (Thirtysomething, The O.C., every single WB show ever). No, I do not want to see you do cartwheels, and no, I do not want to hear how you used to date our next door neighbor who just happens to have a very attractive kid just my type.
Secondly, while I enjoy a good band of rebels, they hardly meet the Rockwell version of family (see Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, Serenity [Huh. Apparently space explorers form their own families. Incestuous ones, usually. Go figure]).
Finally, I need both parents and a sibling. Sure you can have a real-life family with only one kid or only one parent. But I need the ensemble for comedic effect. “But Moooooom. Dad said I could!” “Which one of you kids broke this lamp?” “Who forgot to feed Fluffy?” Five is a nice casting number, but I can be a little flexible.
“But isn’t this kid of cheating?” Eh, maybe. That is why they rank at #5. You have to figure when the brothers were kids, they met my criteria. Regardless, the comedic value is high, while still retaining the feeling that this family cares about each other. They have adopted a family member into their group. They have interesting, but not soul-crushing family quirks. Also, the teenager is charming, but not obsessed with it. (That whole Christmas gathering with the gloves is mugging for the cute-cam, but it works.) If I were Lucy, I too would want in on that family.
No, not Kronk and Yzma. I like a mom who can keep two (eventually three) kids and a husband in line, while still being able to work up an indignant rage. They fit a lot into their tiny little home, plus they emphasize family and the outdoors. Add in a wacky uncle now and then (not to spoil the ending), two siblings who are just crazy enough, and you could have some fun times. The kids might push me over the edge, but if we are being honest, I would probably be one of them.
Ah, the best friend’s house. It is a classic locale and one that worked well in this flick. Moody teenage daughter who is boy-crazy, party-going, and wears scant apparel? Check? Loud little kids? Uh huh. Nerdy teenager who has a hard time fitting into his body and making time with girls? You bet. All of this anchored by two parents who see another kid having a hard time and make sure to feed and house him when needed. They are nice people who are comfortable with a certain amount of rampant chaos. J.J. Abrams creates a humorous family, yes. More importantly, he gives them love and personality.
They came –this close- to being number one. Mostly because of the parents. Stanley Tucci as a suburban father? Genius. Brilliant. All kinds of fun. And the peas scene cracks me up every time. Those two stole every scene they were in.
Two minor complaints. The mom talking about her sexual history? Nope. That would have scarred me. I had a hard enough time letting my parents give me a normal version of “the talk”. I do not know how bendy my parents once were and do not need to. Also, the siblings are a little far apart for my comedic stylings. It seems to work for them. However I would have to be creative blaming the new dent in the car on a kid who could not even see over the steering wheel. (Although, maybe that is why it got the dent? Hmmm…) Again, very, very close. And they certainly win over every competitor in the laugh-out-loud category. But in the end, there really is no choice.
The Also-Rans (A nice enough house, but not quite “home” to me)
It’s a Wonderrful Life got a little too scary there. I like George Bailey, but what if he gets a drinking problem? Plus, sometimes Mr. Bailey thinks the whole world (or at least the town) revolves around him.
Psycho? No. Sure you have lots of land to run around, but it is just you. And Mother. No no no.
Toy Story had a nice enough bedroom, but the rest of the house felt a little empty. Also, the scary neighbor factor was too high.
Swiss Family Robinson offered a fun home environment and close family bonds, but also the extreme risk of being eaten by animals or dying in a wildfire.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had imagination plus adventure on its side. It failed mostly because one got the impression that youngsters there would either be rushed into adulthood with no time for childish things, or else guaranteed to have a Peter Pan-complex with no middle ground between the two.
If you have seen this movie, which you all better have, I should not have to explain it. The kids fight, but only for a little bit. The dad is a little depressed, yes. Yet a night of bowling makes him feel all better. The adopted family member is the very definition of a cool guy. (With a voice by Sam “The Man” Jackson. C’mon!) There is a span where the dad does not like his job, but it gets better. Granted, they move around from place to place, but eventually they settle in. The parents are just human enough to disagree, but eventually they come to an arrangement. They both share in raising the kids. They handle their circumstances well while still making time to help those around them. Oh, and did I mention? Guaranteed superpowers! (I will take super-speed, thanks.)
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I will be there for The Incredibles 2. Maybe they will adopt me. I come with a cat. They need a family pet, right?