Happy New Year, When Can I Watch readers!
Judging by your emails, many of you spent the holidays at the movies, which makes me proud. Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin was a hit with those of you out there looking to bring your rambunctious kids to a throwback adventure reminiscent of most of our childhood movie-going experiences. Great choice.
I get it. Ghost Protocol is exactly the kind of gonzo, enthusiastic, brutal and off-the-wall actioner that I’m itching to share with my boys. They were lucky enough to see Tintin a couple of times over the holiday, and really responded to the eye-popping visuals and absurd action choreography in Spielberg’s popcorn flick. Brad Bird’s spectacular set pieces are going to blow their minds … but not yet. And that’s killing me.
Let’s talk about why. Let’s figure out when it’s appropriate for your own kids. Let’s infiltrate the Kremlin, scale the Burj Khalifa, check in on the beautiful Michelle Monaghan and figure out when you can watch Ghost Protocol with your kids.
Green Lights: "Now remember: Blue is glue!"
Bird’s Mission made me feel like a kid again. J.J. Abrams managed a similar burst of action nostalgia with his winning Mission sequel (and, later, his Star Trek reboot). Everything old is outstanding again.
I grew up on Die Hard and Lethal Weapon -- edge-of-your-seat thrillers with vulnerable, tireless protagonists that kept one foot (OK, a toe) in reality. And the last two Mission movies followed the blueprint established by the likes of Richard Donner, John McTiernan … heck, even Renny Harlin. Not John Woo’s installment, though. Too many random doves.
If you’re anything like me, you want to introduce your kids to these memorable action heroes. And without question, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt belongs in the same class as John McClane, Martin Riggs, Jack Burton and the dude Van Damme played in Sudden Death. You want to marvel with your kids over their amazing acts of courage, and the death-defying stunts Hollywood’s action mavens cooked up.
You want to show your kids the Burj Khalifa sequence in Ghost Protocol so they can help you figure out how the hell Bird and his lunatic star pulled that off.
When it comes to stunts, the Mission films are works of pop art. Think back to Cruise, ever fearless, as he dangled from wires in Brian De Palma’s initial effort. Or the bridge attack in Abrams’ film, which blasted Cruise across a bridge and into a parked car. Bird also brilliantly chooses the magic of IMAX versus the burden of 3D for his sequel, which ratchets up the “wow” factor on his impressive action sequences.
Aside from the Burj Khalifa, Ghost Protocol boasts a maddeningly intense chase through a sand storm, an expertly calibrated fight in and around a parking garage, a vicious prison break, a chick fight (!!), and the decimation of a major Russian landmark. All are bona fide Green Lights when you are contemplating sharing the Mission movies with your kids … but they are Red Lights, as well.
Red Flags: "The rope isn't long enough!"
Did I mention that Ghost Protocol contains a maddeningly intense chase through a sand storm, an expertly calibrated fight in and around a parking garage, a vicious prison break, a chick fight (!!), and the decimation of a major Russian landmark?
Yeah, just one of those is enough to terrify a young child. A steady stream of them sandwiched into a two-hour runtime and blown up to IMAX proportions will have your twitchy kid in therapy before M:I 5 hits theaters.
Unlike Tintin, which flirts with violence without embracing the repercussions (which is another discussion for another day), Mission sharpens its edge. These are hard-hitting spy stories. Characters lose their lives in nasty firefights. Those who survive usually limp to the end credits battered and beaten. There’s something to be said for Ethan’s resilience and dedication to the cause. He knows that the mission implodes if he doesn’t succeed, and “quit” just ain’t in this cat’s vocabulary.
But parents have to determine their child’s threshold for violence, both the threat of and the actual execution. Because Bird may have directed The Incredibles, but Ghost Protocol isn’t a Pixar film.
Other Red Flags that jumped out revolved around the loss of loved ones that color this script. Paula Patton, a sexy Red Flag in her own right, seeks to avenge the murder of her former flame. Cruise references the fate of Michelle Monaghan, the wife he fought to protect in Abrams’ Mission. It isn’t pretty. As thrilling as Ghost Protocol can get in its action-soaked peaks, there are somber valleys of mourning and regret underlying the adrenaline, and they’re worth pointing out as a warning.
And finally, there’s the fact that Hunt and his crew, for the most part, are Patriot Act-waving super soldiers, breaking the law and violating human rights so they can declare “Mission Accomplished.” Not that Ghost Protocol is an overtly political movie. But parents, just be warned. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, might be to answer questions from astute young ones as to why Hunt’s able to break into buildings, drug and beat random strangers, lie, cheat and steal to achieve his goals. He’s supposed to be the good guy. Right?
Parents wondering if they can bring their kids to see Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol might want to wait until their child is at least 12 or 13.
If your young kids are intrigued by the gadgetry and the action choreography found in the Mission
franchise, start them on the Spy Kids
films. Graduate to Johnny English
or Agent Cody Banks
. Take them to see The Adventures of Tintin
on the big screen. It will quench their thirst for adventure (and protect them from the harsh reality of the Mission
There will be time enough for Hunt later. And when you do come around to this series – when your children reach their teenage years – start with De Palma’s initial adventure. Because this series – and Cruise, in particular -- has done a commendable job developing Hunt’s character into the memorable, iconic action hero that he is today. And while the original might not top the madness of the Burj Khalifa or the sandstorm chase, it had some Impossible stunts of its own that are bound to impress your action-savvy kids, when they are ready.
If you’d like to read previous entries in the "When Can I Watch That With My Kids?" series, click right here. Some of the films covered: Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Hugo, The Princess Bride, The Monster Squad and Elf, to name just a few.