Sunday, July 22, 2012

Another Essentials Jr. head-scratcher

Tonight's selection for TCM's Essentials Jr. is The Great Escape, that 1963 movie starring Steve McQueen as one of many people who try to escape from the Nazi POW camp for the most incorrigible soldiers. It's a good enough movie, but I'm not certain it's one I'd select for targeting children. (It appeared a few years back in the regular Essentials, where I think it certainly fits.)

It's been several years since I've seen The Great Escape, and I'm trying to recall just how much there is (or isn't) in the movie that parents might find objectionable for children. It is, after all, a war movie. I distinctly recall one scene in which some of the escapees, having been rounded up, get shot firing-squad style, albeit off camera. This is after the Nazis say they won't kill the people. My general recollection, however, is that The Great Escape is probably less objectionable than other war movies. Certainly the early 1960s were a time when movies weren't using foul language to the extent that they do today, or even just a few short years later. And since the characters spend much of the movie in prison, there's also less in the way of sexual innuendo. But I think it's less violent than your standard issue war movie, or even a movie like Stalag 17, which has a shootout in the climactic attempted escape. There's some material that might be objectionable, but it's a lot less than it could be.

Yhe big problem, of course, is that the movie runs about 170 minutes. Regardless of whether you think children today have a shorter attention span than they did a generation or two ago, that's still a pretty long time to expect children to sit still and watch a film. And The Great Escape is one where there are substantial periods without much action. I mean, how much action can you have when you've got your lead character in solitary confinement?

I'm not suggesting that you not watch The Great Escape; not by any means. I just don't know how much the kids will like it.

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