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'Hotel Transylvania' and 'Won't Back Down' Make Strong Impacts
'Hotel Transylvania' and 'Won't Back Down' Make Strong Impacts
10/01/2012

Julie Samrick
Kid Focused

Little Kids Shouldn't Check in to 'Hotel Transylvania'   

In this Romeo and Juliet-esque story, two star-crossed lovers are kept apart, but to make the chasm even deeper, Johnny is a 21-year-old mortal in love with Mavis, a 118-year-old vampire.  Her father, Count Dracula (played by Adam Sandler), loathes humans so much that he's built a gothic "Hotel Transylvania" for all monsters who seek refuge from the persecution of humans.

Hotel Transylvania first begins when Mavis is an infant in 1895, which is also about the time Bram Stoker wrote Dracula.  The movie parodies the vampires and monsters we thought we knew so well, showing them to be sensitive and misunderstood while humans are the ones to be feared. 

Fast-forward to present day. After more than a century of running the thriving hotel, single dad, Dracula, plans his daughter's 118th coming of age party while going to great lengths to keep her his dependent baby girl.

The attention to detail is great in this movie.  It's fun to see the silly cast of spooky characters who stay at the hotel, like Frankenstein, Big Foot, and more.  There are clever references to the mega-hit "Twilight" franchise, and current pop music keeps the film current too.

There are themes of father/daughter love, trust, and why we often have misconceived notions about others. 

I'd hold off on showing very young kids this movie, though, because it can be frightening in several different parts.  There is fast-paced action, scary music, startling pop-ups, fire, and zombies with pitchforks through their heads, just to name a few examples.

Kids over 8 will like the humor and appreciate seeing the movie during Halloween season.


The Message of 'Won't Back Down' Gains Momentum   

Is education reform the civil rights issue of today?  That's the question being asked more frequently, and it's getting louder as parents, teachers, and concerned citizens aren't willing to sit back in resignation and accept that our nation's public school system is collectively failing.

Won't Back Down begins with a heart-breaking scene of a young, dyslexic student forced to read aloud in front of her peers.  Her teacher is disengaged and the class is chaotic while still managing to be cruel to her.

Viola Davis costars as a burned out second-grade teacher, and Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a mother on a mission who takes action upon learning there is a legal process for parents who want to take over their kids' failing schools. 

It is the behemoth of bureaucracy that is the enemy in the film (and in real life too) - so much red tape is what keeps many concerned citizens quiet about their neighborhood schools.  This film is a reminder that we can all take action.

Won't Back Down tackles many of the same issues as the 2010 documentary Waiting for "Superman".  The film depicts families competing for limited spots at the rare, decent schools in their neighborhoods.  Underfunding and teachers' unions are underscored too.

Teachers' unions are often pointed to as the chief culprits, with ineffective, tenured teachers standing smugly behind them.  But who are these teachers?  Isn't teaching a calling?  Those of us who have done it, or are doing it, certainly aren't called to the profession for the money.  So what's going on? 

Davis's character symbolizes the formally great, idealistic teachers who have been beaten down by low expectations, low parental involvement, and lack of support. Gyllenhaal is her foil, an idealistic firecracker, reigniting Davis's passion and reminding her why she was first called to teach to begin with.  Her husband mentions that at first Nona (Viola Davis) "purposely chose a school that needed her most."

This film is PG because it contains lots of education subject matter.  Teens should go with their parents and then join in the conversation to help answer the question: How do we make schools succeed?

Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of four young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues.  Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too.  Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.

Tags: Education, Family/Relationships - Parent/Child, Halloween, Holidays, Movie Review, Parenting, Teachers
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