Sunday, August 10, 2014

On Essentials Jr. Choices

It seems as though every summer during Essentials Jr., three's at least one movie selected that makes me scratch my head and wonder what they were doing picking this one. The series skirts toward that border this week, although it's really next week when they unabashedly cross it. This week's movie is the Carole Lombard/Jack Benny versoin of To Be or Not to Be.

Oh, there's a lot of great comedy here, and especially the visual stuff Jack Benny does is material that the younger viewers can enjoy. But there's also quite a bit of dark humor, as when Jack Benny's character realizes he has to deal quickly with a dead doppelgänger, or when the acting troupe literally orders a pair of Nazis to jump to their deaths. Some of the fast-paced dialog-based humor might go over the younger viewers' heads, as well as some of the historical context. Not so much World War II itself, but the who Polish airmen escaping to the west and fighting the Nazis from Britain thing.

Overall, though, I don't think To Be Or Not to Be winds up being a head-scratching choice for children. It's just too good a movie. And as for some of the historical context, I'd like to think that maybe a bit of explanation in the intro might have to be given, but that should handle it. After all, I don't think children have any problem with the sound-era Our Gang or Laurel and Hardy shorts despite the severely outdated technology.

Note that TCM's daily schedule doesn't have a "buy the DVD" icon next to To Be Or Not to Be, although it is, in fact, available.

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