Friday, March 12, 2010

Checking Out Childhood

Film poster for The Kid - Copyright 2000, Walt...

If you haven't seen Disney's The Kid (2000), you really should. It's a wonderful film that does things with time I'm still trying to figure out despite having seen it so often I can anticipate characters' lines. I don't want to reveal too much of the story, but if I don't say a few things, I may as well stop writing now.

The premise involves a middle-aged guy (Bruce Willis) who is driven, successful, and turning 40. One evening he comes home to discover a young boy in his home, playing with a toy WW-II vintage airplane. Turns out the boy is his eleven year old self and Willis takes on the task of trying to get him back to his own time. In the final scenes, it becomes clear the entire scenario has been set in motion by Willis' 60 year old self.

The story is an enactment of the desire I've often heard people express, i.e. if they could go back in time and redo one particular thing, their lives would be changed for the better. Ever feel that way? And that's what happens with Willis. Like most of us, however, he realizes it's not a pivotal event per se, but himself, that needs adjustment. In order to do that, he needs to see and experience what it was like to be eleven years old once again.

But Willis doesn't want to be reminded of his childhood. In fact, he wants very badly to forget as much of it as he can because it was painful. His mother died when he was eleven, he was overweight and unpopular. Who, in their right mind, wants to re-visit all that? His 60 year old self, however, knows he has to, in order to become open to changing the direction of his adult life. In a sense, the older Willis is living out the positive consequences of having faced the pain of his childhood. He just has to make sure his 40 year old self does, too.

There's no rule that says a person has to dig around in their past to figure out why things aren't going right in the present. At the same time, there is something about the wishes and desires of childhood that remain with us. We assume there is a purity about them that reflects our deepest and truest selves, and why that's the case, I honestly don't know. For some, it's a sufficiently compelling reason to do some soul-searching. It was for me, anyway.

So, if you're of a mind to check out your childhood and feel like you need an inspiration, The Kid is a great way to go. Make sure you've got the box of tissues nearby, because they come in handy. It's not sad, but it is touching and if you're a dog lover, the final scene will get you like it does me, every dog-gone time.

(Low Resolution image of film poster for Disney's The Kid (copyright, Walt Disney Corp. 2000) -- fair use claimed because no other image exists to adequately identify the subject of this essay, the image is not merely used for illustration but to specify the film in question, and the image has been used elsewhere besides this context, via Wikipedia)
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