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How to select a holiday movie that's appropriate for parents

Even a movie starring Tom Hanks can prove embarrassing, says Josh Wolk

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Tom Hanks, Cast Away

How to select a holiday movie that’s appropriate for parents

When the whole family heads off to the multiplex over the holidays, there is always the requisite teeth gnashing about what’s appropriate for the children. To that, I rhymingly say, ”Kids, shmids!” There is a far greater danger lurking in family movie trips, and that’s finding a film that won’t make you writhe uncomfortably while seated next to your parents or grandparents.

Heading to the theater with your elders is a minefield rife with sex, profanity, and other off color moments guaranteed to make you pray for a power outage. And even when a movie is squeaky clean, it can contain other subtexts guaranteed to make your evening a pain in the Blitzen. So here are pros and cons of some of the holiday movies to help you pick which ones will keep the old folks happy and which will have you nervously sweating your Goobers off.

Family Man This ”It’s a Wonderful Life” style fantasy is a relatively innocuous picture, although there is one glimpse of a naked Téa Leoni seen through an opaque glass shower stall. While this may seem chaste to you, remember that your older relatives may not have the greatest vision: Because ALL nudity is already blurry to them, they’ll assume they’re seeing full frontal. So while you think you’re safe, they are silently judging you as a pervert.

Finding Forrester Here’s a good bet for accompanying those senior citizen relatives. Not only is it relatively clean and taboo free, but it stars Sean Connery, whose long career and ability to nab leading roles normally reserved for youngsters has made him the Billie Jean King of old folks. Granted, in this film he isn’t wooing a female costar decades his junior, but just the fact that he’s not playing a guy in a wheelchair or iron lung will have the AARP crowd cheering like they’re watching ”Rocky.”

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Again, the eyesight factor comes into play here: Subtitles may cause not so sotto voce barking of, ”What’d he say? They switch them so damn fast! I’m not a speed reader, Mr. Kickyface!” As for the fight scenes, while they are largely bloodless and more balletic than violent, the fact that the combatants often defy gravity to leap over rooftops and trees might offend those used to old school martial arts, and earn you a post- show lecture of, ”So these big shots think they can just fly all over the place? In my day, we were lucky to fight on the ground! Sometimes we’d have to be buried under 6 feet of gravel, and only THEN could we swing our nunchuks.”

State and Main While David Mamet does sprinkle this Hollywood satire with his usual garnish of profanity, there is one mitigating factor for those of us attending with Jewish elders: Much of the swearing is in Yiddish. For some reason, swearing becomes charmingly permissible when it’s in Yiddish, perhaps because the viewers feel they’re in on the joke. Whether it’s shtup or shmuck, it’s all good. ”Oh what a night at the theater!” they’ll cry. ”I laughed my touchas off!”

Cast Away The biggest pitfall in seeing this film with your parents comes from Tom Hanks’ chatting with a volleyball that he calls ”Wilson.” After the film, get ready for a passive aggressive ride home filled with comments like, ”I just find it interesting that Tom Hanks can carry on a conversation for days with a volleyball, but SOME people can’t be bothered to call their own mother once a week just to say hello.” See at your own risk.

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