For Robert Earl Keen, it’s margaritas when the eggnog’s gone, carved turkey and a ball game on, but for my family, there is no Feliz Navidad until we’ve seen one of the worst movies of the year together.
I’m sure you remember Haley Joel Osment and his ability to see dead people, but maybe you didn’t have the holiday pleasure of seeing A.I. (also known as Artificial Intelligence), in which the creepiest kid before Dakota Fanning played a sci-fi Pinocchio of sorts, hoping to become real to win the love of his human mother. The only other thing you need to know about the movie is that the cast also included Jude Law, who played a robot male prostitute named Gigolo Joe. Now that was a Silent Night.
The following year, we tried and failed again with Solaris. The film had all the makings of a perfect comedy—George Clooney playing a psychiatrist in space—except it was a drama/romance. The best line of the movie, spoken by “Friend #1,” was, “The pope is a wonderful woman!”
This week, the impressively unintentional family tradition continued with How Do You Know. I’m not the biggest fan of Reese Witherspoon, but I had high hopes for a reel with Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, and Jack Nicholson sharing screen time. Unfortunately, the movie starred Witherspoon as an Olympic softball player who has just been cut from Team USA. The plot revolves around what she’s going to do with her life, her chief decision being whether to date a major-league douchebag/baseball player or anxiety-ridden corporate executive who has just been indicted. I’d like to say my family didn’t know these details beforehand, but in our defense, the holidays put us in unusually good/generous spirits. That said, to spare you the exorbitant cost of a movie ticket and two hours of your life, I’m going to reveal the one redeeming part of the film that was worth seeing with or without Raisinets.
For the ex-softball player’s 30-something birthday, Rudd’s character follows Owen Wilson’s gift of a diamond watch with Play-Doh, the (true) history of which turns out to be even more endearing than its smell. He explains how the substance was originally used to clean wallpaper but this particular need for the product grew obsolete after the introduction of vinyl. The company’s owner, Joe McVicker, who was 25 years old and dying of cancer at the time, needed to think fast to keep his family’s business from going under. Around Christmas 1954, McVicker’s sister-in-law comes up with the idea to make ornaments with her preschool students using the doughlike material. The company followed suit, removed the detergents, added color and an almond fragrance, and one of the most beloved toy products of the 20th century was born. Witherspoon’s character, unsure of her connection to the modeling clay, finally absorbs the point of Rudd’s gift when he says, “We’re all just one small adjustment from making our lives work.”
Admittedly, I teared up at the end of Toy Story 3 and immediately change the channel when Sarah McLachlan’s ASPCA commercial comes on, but what’s not engrossing about the reminder that who we are is enough? The right “ingredients” are in place; sometimes we just need a shift in attitude, time, company, or direction for our passion and purpose to be realized and put into motion with who we’ve always been and what we’ve always had.