The Matrix (#411)

“Charlie didn’t like Barnyard as much as he did Monster House,” I said to Jim, who laughed and asked, “How did he communicate that to you?”
I had to laugh at myself—I am hardly trying to paint Charlie as some kind of precocious “kids movie critic.” I will say that I did get very caught up in the plot of Monster House and had to stay till the end (and Charlie, after rocking in his seat and humming for some minutes, had sat staring at the movie screen in that movie’s last half-hour). Perhaps it was the familiarity of the scenes in which much of Monster House‘s action takes place: A suburban street (DJ, the main character, lives in a Cape Cod-style house); the three kids with their talk of school and that weird house; the babysitter; the red wagon, the basketball, a stuffed rabbit that squeaks. The computer-animated kids “acted” and sounded like kids in the tones of their voices, in their fixation on this one house with something wrong about it that no adult believes is true, in their fear and screams for help.

Charlie has plenty of fears—of pained, screaming, face-twisting responses—to many things that not only “ye average adult” but also “ye average typical ‘normal’ person” finds not only incomprehensible, but ridiculous: No yellow schoolbus stopping in front of our house on Saturday morning. A bowl filled with his favorite food. No school on the weekend. Not getting to ride a certain elevator when we’re on the lowest floor of a certain mall. Not being able to find a certain blue golf shirt of Jim’s. I can understand why some of these might so upset Charlie, while others (the food throwing) are mysteries without a solution, yet.

One pattern that I do trace in some of Charlie’s fears is that something is not where it should be. That, something is out of order and without that fragile order, Charlie goes to pieces. The white car should be in the garage; Grandma and Grandpa ought to be in their chairs on either side of the lamp in the living room; Daddy wears a white shirt at the beach; the yellow school bus comes in the morning. And while a good part of Charlie’s education involves teaching him how to be flexible and to live and cope with change and variety, there is something in Charlie—in Charlie’s neurological make-up, if you will—that results in his thinking often, always, being on the lookout for patterns, and, even more, for seeing things according to a pattern, a grid, a matrix.

And therein lies Charlie’s and my “thumbs down” rating of Barnyard, which is about a bunch of farm animals who (when the farmer is off in the fields or asleep) stand up on their hind legs, talk, hold rave-like parties in the barn, and act pretty human. A great deal of the movie’s humor lies in the conceit of quadrupeds become bipeds; the main character (cow?) is Otis, whose four-teated pink udder was regularly fully exposed as he ice-surfed down a hill and through the countryside, showed his stuff on the barnfloor, protested to his leader-father Ben that a cow’s just gotta have fun (with Air Jordans).

In other words, Barnyard was about barnyard animals not acting like barnyard animals: Ha, ha, ha.

Ha. The barnyard animal characters were extraneous; the movie could as easily have been made with actual humans, toys of various brands, or insects of various species and have had the same plot. Charlie, who had perked up in the car on hearing that we were going to see a “moo-vee” about “cow, pig!”—the familiar animals of how many puzzles, flashcards, books, playsets, and bingo games—was just not interested in seeing those animals not be their animal-selves; not act in character. He walked into the aisle a few times, hummed loudly, curled up in a ball in his seat, tried a few sour sweet-tarts, said “b’ack car.” We stayed for 45 minutes before leaving for home and a bike ride with Jim, a good piano lesson—Charlie really understands about reading the letter names of the notes and playing the corresponding keys—and a special dinner of Chinese take-out. (I doled out the “white rice chicken” and some broccoli and cabbage in small bites.)

It was a good Sunday. We had all gone to church; Charlie sat quietly and even grinned a bit when there was music. Grandpa surmised that it had been a year since he had been able to go to church (Grandpa is no longer able to drive); Jim and I thought about how it might help Charlie to learn that school is Monday through Friday and church is Sunday (still working on what Saturday might be). Tucked in bed with his squishy balls, schedule, and teddy bear, Charlie recited the Lord’s Prayer up to “giff us dis day our day-wee bwead.” Jim helped him through the rest—–“tresspassez!” said Charlie, then “goo’ night.”

And, in good order, Charlie—knowing tomorrow is Monday—went to sleep.

2 Responses to “The Matrix (#411)”
  1. Julia says:

    I saw a preview for that movie.

    If the moviemakers can’t even get it right that it’s only the FEMALES that have udders, they’re not getting my money, I will not financially support that sort of ignorance.

    (I spent 10 of my formative years living in a town with a number of dairy farms. We KNEW the difference between a cow and a bull.)

  2. Julia, that very point bothered me throughout the whole movie! I really wanted to take Charlie to see Pirates of the Caribbean or the Ant Bully but those were both playing at times that didn’t fit in with the rest of the day’s activities. We did see a trailer for another movie—

    —that looks more promising!

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