Is Mr. Mom My Mentor?

I’ve written previously about how I have no problem being called Mr. Mom, the name of the 1983 movie starring Michael Keaton. In short, I find it quite endearing.

In the movie, Keaton plays Jack, an engineer who gets laid off. Struggling to find another job, his previously stay-at-home wife Caroline (Terri Garr) successfully restarts her career. The working dad becomes Mr. Mom.

I have fond memories of the movie, but probably hadn’t seen it since the eighties. Browsing Netflix for something, my wife suggested we watch it. I warned her it was pretty silly, and she probably wouldn’t like it. Well, as it turned out, she didn’t like it and gave up less than halfway through. I stuck with it though.

It was interesting to revisit what was probably my first exposure to a dad staying home with their kids, something I am now doing myself. I was struck that the movie did in fact cover a lot of interesting and relevant themes around the swapping of traditional gender roles in the household.

This is essentially a situation comedy, and for comedic effect Jack doesn’t choose his new role, it is thrust upon him by becoming unemployed. It’s interesting that one of the reasons for the rise of the number of stay-at-home dads is the recession. Many fathers have lost their jobs, while their wives either haven’t or have found work instead (just like Jack and Caroline). These dads may have found themselves taking on a role in the home they never intended to.

Initially our decision for my wife and I to swap at-home and working roles was made because each of us wanted it. When we relocated from NZ back to the UK, my wife landed a great job quickly, while I picked up freelance work here and there. So there is a mirroring of the situation, inasmuch that my wife is more employable than me, and that is one of the reasons I am home with the kid.

I was struck by a scene where Jack goes to see a temp agency, and gets involved in a conversation two other male jobseekers are having. Turns out they are enthusiastically sharing recipes, the implication being that they too are in the same situation as Jack. I’ve had a similar situation – where another dad and I were moaning about laundry. On this occasion, a mum overheard us and sarcastically commented “Well, what a manly conversation you two are having”.

One of the myths of Mr. Mom (as far as I’m concerned) is this – the storyline of a mother trying to seduce Jack. I can reliably report that there hasn’t been a hint of sexual tension in any of the various baby groups, classes, playgroups, etc. that I have attended in my years as a stay-at-home dad. Even if my mother friends and I weren’t all happy in our respective relationships, it strikes me that the life of the lead parent of a baby/toddler is too tiring to go to the effort of having an affair.

But like Jack, I’ve also let my appearance slide while being home. I was never a smart dresser anyway, but now my day-to-day outfits tend to consist of jeans with holes, and old t-shirts and tops. As I have a short window to use the shower before the munchkin gets up, shaving tends to be left to the weekends too. As a happily married man who interacts with mothers with partners most of the week, I’m not trying to impress any of them with how I look.

In the film, Jack ends up forming a fairly close social circle with local mums. Since my first time with the antenatal group, and then befriending local mothers in our new area, I have formed good friendships with mothers. I have never felt awkward in these all female environments, which I must admit surprised me. My wife often reflects on the fact that I know far more mothers in our local area than she does – though they’ll often say hello to her at weekends, because they recognise our daughter.

The way the role change affects the mother also has a lot of truth to it. Working mother guilt is an established societal issue, which my wife is no stranger to. I wouldn’t, however, berate my wife the way Jack does, for all the things she has missed while at work. I know we are very lucky that my she supports us, and I know she feels like she is missing much more than she actually is.

Mr. Mom, Mr. Mum, Michael Keaton, stay at home dads, stay home dad, being a stay at home dad, stay at home dad blog, Stay at home dads are losers
Mr. Mom (1983), Starring Michael Keaton and Terri Garr. Dir: Stan Dragoti

A theme of the film is the style of Jack’s parenting compared to a mother’s. Do dads parent differently than mothers? I don’t know. My fairly relaxed parenting style is shared by a lot of mothers I know too. Like Jack, I have fed my baby (well, toddler) chilli, and while I’ve never dried her bum on a hand-dryer, I have held her over men’s urinals many times. But mothers have told me of instances when their kids have accidentally swigged beer, or they’ve fed them nothing but white toast all day – the kind of things ‘Mr. Mom’ would do too.

Is Mr. Mom My Mentor?

Ultimately, there is something important about Keaton’s portrayal and the way Jack is written. Confidence. Jack acts like he has every right to be there in all these situations, and that’s exactly how stay-at-home dads should be. The movie is only partly about a hapless hopeless stay-at-home dad. He quickly finds his feet, and then owns the role of at-home dad. Many men who have also spent their time working, and less around their kids, may understandably also experience this transition too. Jack may do things a little differently, but not necessarily because he’s a man.

I’m not going to lie to you – the eighties slapstick humour, of which this is full of, falls fairly flat now. Comedies of this era were full of similar gags, and they haven’t aged well. But I’m glad I revisited it.

The film makes a compelling case for the positives of being a stay-at-home dad, or even an engaged dad, and that there’s no rule that dads MUST be the breadwinner of the family. I’m sure that influenced my subsequent thinking. I have no idea why I wanted to become a stay-at-home dad so much. I had no role models in my friends or extended family that have done it.

What I do have is the fond memories of watching this film as a child. Perhaps Mr. Mom planted the seed of an idea to become a stay-at-home dad, that became a reality many years later.

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Curious to watch the movie? Check it out on Netflix.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam program. Our household receives free Netflix for a year and I post about how our family uses the service.
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TV REVIEW: Does Supergirl Fly?

I don’t know much about the character of Supergirl. She is Superman’s cousin, is blonde, and wears a skirt. We’ve seen a few appearances from her in some animated shows. I toyed with showing my daughter the 1984 Helen Slater movie, but I remember it being terrible.

But Supergirl – as a concept – has been an easy shorthand to help my daughter to engage with superheroes. She is familiar with Superman, mostly from the Donner movies and the 90’s animated series, and the concept of a female version inspires her. If she puts on a cape, her default hero to be is ‘Supergirl’. If she wears a top with the ‘S’ insignia, again she is ‘Supergirl’.

Given this, I was excited by the prospect of a Supergirl TV show, so she could engage with the character directly. When I saw the first photos of Melissa Benoist in character, she certainly looked the part. She also had a warmth to her expression, that went against the prevailing darkness of most superhero adaptations these days. This would hopefully be an uplifting show.

An early trailer left me feeling a little wary, as it was rather close to this viral Black Widow rom-com parody.

This week we finally got to check out the TV show, on Sky 1 in the UK (minor spoilers ahead).

The set up is that the teenage Kara flees the doomed planet of Krypton right behind her baby cousin Kal-El (aka Superman), but as is the way with these things, she arrives long after him – so long that while she hasn’t aged, he is now Superman. She was supposed to protect the baby, but now she is the child who needs his help.

She grows up choosing not to follow him into the heroic business. We find her stuck in a dead end job working for Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart plays her ‘Devil Wears Prada’ like boss Cat Grant). Her life is going nowhere. She seem unfulfilled, until circumstances lead her to use her powers to prevent a plane crashing, and a hero is born.

Much set-up follows, including her costume (trying to justify the short skirt and cape), name (trying to justify the use of ‘girl’ over ‘woman’), and who the villains are (no spoilers).

Being a) the female version of a male hero, and b) being called ‘girl’ means this probably isn’t going to be the definitive strong female superhero many are clamouring for. But despite this I am happy for my daughter to engage with Supergirl (like Batgirl before her) because they can still be excellent, empowering characters when handled right. Plus, my daughter is proud of being a girl, so the name is one she likes.

As this is a primetime US network show, I had no reason to think it wouldn’t be suitable for my 3-year-old daughter to watch with me, and I was right. While there was a little cuddling up to me while Kara faced down the bad guy du jour, this is nothing compared to how upset she gets with other more overtly kiddie fare – such as the scrapyard denouement of Toy Story 3.

Will we be watching more? Absolutely. While the Devil Wears Prada aspect was there, it didn’t dominate. It’s being set-up with potential love interests for Kara, bit that didn’t drive the plot. It passes the Bechedel Test. And the superhero action was for the most part well staged. My daughter likes the character interplay as much as the superheroics, and spent the whole episode engaged and full of questions about the unfolding story.

This was a pilot episode, that had to shoehorn in a lot of exposition and set up. I trust that it’ll settle into a more streamlined show, and even if it doesn’t – showing my daughter a female hero save crashing planes, throw down with a villain, or take out a truck hurtling towards her, is enough for me. And probably for her too…

This kid. So awesome. 😀

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Star Wars Rebels – A Girl Friendly Galaxy Far, Far Away….

Female characters used to be a rare occurrence in Star Wars. In the original trilogy there was Princess Leia of course, but the likes of Aunt Beru and her blue milk, Mon Mothma mourning her Bothan spies, and… um, oh Toryn Farr who fired the Ion Cannon on Hoth, made fleeting appearances. It wasn’t too much better in the prequels.

Happily, things are different now. While we wait to see just how The Force Awakens treats its female characters (the signs so far are good), it’s worth taking a look at Star Wars Rebels (the first season of which is now out to buy on Blu-ray and DVD)  – the first major Star Wars project since Disney’s Lucasfilm acquisition in 2012.

The series is set around four years prior to Star Wars (A New Hope), and charts the rise of the Rebellion against the Empire – the conflict that drove the narrative of the original trilogy. For fans of the original movies, it’s nice that this show features the Empire and all their familiar trappings, from Stormtroopers to Tie-Fighters.

I first caught this show when it aired on DisneyXD last year. As a parent looking for alternative female cartoon characters for my daughter to engage with – rather than the usual princesses and fairies – this was great one to watch. The fact I was a Star Wars fan looking for new ways to introduce his daughter to the galaxy far, far away… well, that didn’t hurt either.

I was worried that Star Wars was going to be defined by Disney as a boys brand, so I was delighted to see Rebels had such prominent female characters.

Of the featured women, first up we have Captain Hera, the pilot.

Her role in the group is significant as female pilots were scarce in the movies – good luck finding a one in the original trilogy (although there were some minor character ones in the prequels).

So for Star Wars Rebels to have a woman in charge of their ship the Ghost is a decent step forward.

Next up there’s Sabine Wren, an explosives expert and street artist.

Initially described by my daughter as that “pink Boba Fett Lady”, I must admit I was unsure about her at first. However, she has become a firm favourite with both of us – and my daughter couldn’t wait to get a toy version of her.

"Daddy, can I buy this please?!" #SabineWren #StarWarsRebels

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We were lucky to receive a LEGO minifigure too.

Sabines on toast. #sorrynotsorry

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There are also a few other notable female characters in the show. An interesting one for me was that of Maketh Tua, an Imperial Governor. One thing your never saw in the movies were any women in the Empire. I’m glad to see this has changed – both here and the forthcoming The Force Awakens.

The creative force behind the series is Dave Filoni, who was also responsible for the previous Star Wars cartoon, the highly regarded The Clone Wars. That was a show I had previously ignored, and boy was I wrong about that (If you haven’t already seen it I urge to to get the five series Blu-ray boxset now!). It has kickass female characters galore – including Star Wars fangirl icon Ahsoka Tano.

The Disney made Star Wars Rebels skews younger than that cartoon, but has a similar style of animation and thankfully displays the same commitment to portraying strong female characters at the centre of the action.

While Rebels is populated with mostly new characters, a few familiar faces do turn up – such as an episode with Lando Carlissian, voiced by Billy Dee Williams. This is my daughter’s favourite, as she has a bit of a soft spot for Lando.

Some other well known characters make an appearance too, but that would be spoiling things.

Things are not perfect with Star Wars Rebels. The show still centers on two male characters, and the initial wave of merchandise omitted the female characters entirely (which thankfully now appears to have been rectified with most licensees).

But the show is a good entry point for young girls and boys into the world of Star Wars, and a great way for fan parents to share their love of Star Wars with their kids. Series two has just started airing, and has added even more female characters to the cast.

How much of this ties into The Force Awakens remains to be seen. We also have the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to look forward to after that. It’s set in a similar (Pre-Star Wars) era to Rebels, and has a female lead (played by British actor Felicity Jones). Perhaps there might be some crossover there?

In the meantime, enjoy the gender neutral space battles, lightsaber duels, and the unfolding drama of the beginning of the rebellion against the galactic Empire in this pleasingly exciting and inclusive series.

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You can purchase Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Series One from Amazon on Blu-ray and DVD.

Family Fever

The Force Awakens May Look Serious, But Check Out the Creepy First Trailer for Star Wars (1977)

The latest trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been released. Building from the previously posted teasers, this fleshes out a little more the new & familiar worlds and characters we can look forward to.

But one thing seems to be missing from this – fun. The previous teasers for this film had their moments of levity. Even the darker instalments of the previous movies had time for humour. But The Force Awakens appears to be a fun-free zone judging by this latest trailer.

But then again, perhaps it’s worth revisiting the initial trailer for the first Star Wars movie.

Does that look like fun? That is a trailer for a far creepier movie than Star Wars turned our to be.

As one online commenter so succinctly put it, “this trailer makes Stars Wars look like shit.”

Fair point. So while the new one may look a little on the serious side so far, we should always be wary of judging a film by its trailer.

And to say I’m totally psyched for this is an understatement 🙂

Because I can't seem to post anything that isn't about this right now…! #StarWars #theforceawakens

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Our Spider-Senses Are Tingling Over This Amazing Spider-Man Kids Backpack

For any of you who think I am indoctrinating my daughter into a life mini-me of geekdom, here’s a fact for you – unlike me, she doesn’t like Spider-Man anymore.

However, she loves Spider-Girl – and luckily her outfit looks an awful lot like Spider-Man’s.

This similarity works for this terrific LittleLife Spider-Man Day Sack that my daughter was very happy to receive.

My daughter is adamant her new LittleLife Spidey Daysack is a Spider-Girl one.

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The Spidey mask is an iconic design, and it’s effectively used as the basis for this kids day sack, which is also assembled to match the shape of the masked Spidey face. As an added bonus, the whites of Spidey’s eyes are also highly-reflective, adding to your child’s visibility as the days get darker.

As well as being (to me) a stylishly designed accessory it’s also a really well made backpack. The materials are sturdy, the adjustable padded straps and secure buckles are high quality, and it has a lot of room for what she needs to pack for outings or a day at nursery. It also has a top handle for carrying or hanging, plus an internal name & address label should you want to fill it in.

If you likes facts and figures, the main details for this Spider-Man Day Sack are:

  • Weight: 220g
  • Dimensions: 14cm x 22cm x 30cm
  • Capacity: 4 Litres
  • Suitable for Ages: 3+ Years (with no upper age limit stated!)
  • Additional Features: Reflective Eyes

This is a great product, and I’m really glad we have it. And not just because it’s a Spider-Man Girl one.

Like the look of it? You can purchase it from Amazon here, or if you’re feeling lucky then enter our giveaway below!

SpiderMan Day Sack LittleLife giveaway
This giveaway closes at midnight on October 30 2015. Open to UK entrants only.

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Unfortunately, the Spidey Day Sack doesn’t come with an inbuilt Spider-Sense. But instead, we were sent this terrific Family First Aid Kit for us to deal with any accidents our Spider-sense would have prevented. This kit has pretty much everything you could need to deal with most bumps, scrapes or worse when on the go with your kids.

LittleLIfe Family First Aid Kit

Here’s a list of what it includes:

  • Primary care leaflet
  • 25g Sudocrem
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Forehead thermometer
  • Vinyl gloves
  • Nappy sacks
  • Micropore tape
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Medium and small eyepad dressings
  • Low adherent dressing
  • Fabric dressing strip
  • Wound closure strips
  • Gauze swabs
  • Plasters
  • Woven bandage
  • Crepe bandage
  • Triangular bandage
  • Safety pins
  • Burn gel
  • Eye wash

And last but not least:

  • ‘Brave Little Star’ stickers (magical adhesives that reduce crying times enormously)

It’s all efficiently packed up in a tidy zip-up bag that measures only 17 x 12 x 7cm, so while you could keep this at home in the bathroom cabinet it’s perfect for taking out with you – just in case.

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Finally, we were also sent this Gruffalo Toddler Daysack (toddler not included).

LittleLife-gruffalo-toddler-daysack-stock image

While our daughter, at nearly 4, is too old for this (recommended age is 1-3), I can see this is another well made, thoughtfully designed, and fun looking product.

The Gruffalo’s face is faithfully reproduced, including important details such as the poisonous wart at the end of his nose.

As it’s for a smaller child it has about half the capacity of the Spidey sack, and it also comes with toddler reins. We never had to use these, but I know many other kids are far more into defying requests not to run off.

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The LittleLife Spider-Man Day Sack and Family First Aid Kit are on sale at Amazon.

They can also also be purchased from the LittleLife website or variety of other retailers. 

The Gruffalo Toddler Daysack is also available to buy at the LittleLife website.

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Disclosure: We were gifted all products for the purposes of this review.

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What LittleLife backpack or other product would your child choose? Check out their website and then head back and tell us! (This doesn’t change the prize btw, just curious)

Family Fever

Review & Giveaway: Karate Lottie, Ballet Lottie, plus Sweet Dreams Accessory Pack

We already have a varied collection of Lottie Dolls. We love them for many reasons, but particular because it’s easy to see similarities between them and the kid.

Why we love @lottie_dolls – she's a lot like my daughter 🙂

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Well, this week we were sent a suitably eclectic trio of items that my daughter had chosen to complement the likes of her Rockabilly Lottie above.

Karate, Ballet, and Sleepy – our latest collection of @lottie_dolls are ready for action (or inaction).

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The first of these items was the Sweet Dreams Outfit Set.

This is an accessory set, so there’s no doll just the clothes – but it’s great to have more outfits for them. Our daughter has always liked putting her toys down for naps and sleeps, and this accessory set gives her a chance to do that while at least one of them is dressed and ready for bedtime.

It comes with all-in-one pyjamas, a dressing gown/robe, and fleece slippers – all perfect for making sure your Lottie doll is nice and snug.

Next up was the first of the two dolls – Spring Celebration Ballet Lottie.

Our daughter has been going to dance class on Saturday morning for a while now, and loves it. Like this Lottie, her outfit is also all pink (the choices for children’s tights and leotards for dancing seemed to be pink or pink), plus she has a tutu she wore last term too – so this Lottie is one she definitely associates with her experience of dancing.

Ballet Lottie is nicely decked out in her special ballet costume (with a 3-layer tutu), a sequin leotard, ballet slippers, and a drawstring shoe bag.

My daughter’s final choice is my personal favourite – the Kawaii Karate Lottie:

As mentioned on this blog previously, Kawaii essentially means ‘cute’ in Japan, and as well as providing a handy instance of alliteration, it’s an accurate description of this doll (although Kickass Karate Lottie would’ve worked too).

Kitted out in full karate gear, plus a choice of white or yellow belts, a rising sun headband, a helmet, plus some collector cards displaying how to hit and kick like a girl, this is a great set.

Playing with her new Lottie Dolls
Playing with her new Lottie Dolls

We are a multi-racial family, and we have toys around us that reflect that diversity. Lottie have dolls of various skin tones, and I was glad that our daughter has chosen a brown skinned Lottie to add to her collection.

The choice of Ballet and Karate Lotties is not as random as it seems. Our daughter’s been very interested in Batgirl of late, and often picks out my Batgirl of Burnside trade paperback to look at (I’ve read the whole thing to her – dating apps, transgender villains, evil algorithms and all).

There’s a page showing the pre-Batgirl Barbara Gordon doing ballet (pink outfit) and martial arts (white training gear), and I think that’s made an impression.

Karate + Ballet = Batgirl. And now Lottie too.

This selection of dolls displays yet again why Lottie is such a great product. Her range of outfits and interests continue to reinforce the message that being a girl shouldn’t limit your aspirations – and you can like frilly pink skirts while also being kickass at karate.

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Kawaii Karate Lottie, Spring Celebration Ballet Lottie, and Sweet Dreams Outfit Set are all available from Amazon.

Or alternatively, enter our giveaway below!

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Lottie Dolls Giveaway

*** This competition is open residents of all countries ***

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Lottie doll retails at ÂŁ16.99 (USD $19.99); accessory sets and outfit sets retail at ÂŁ7.99 (USD $9.99)

Lottie is also available online at www.lottie.com.

In the UK, Lottie is also at Debenhams, Ocado, Natural History Museum, Jo Jo Maman BĂŠbĂŠ, and independent toy stores.

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this piece, my daughter did receive the featured dolls and accessories free of charge.
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Which Lottie doll is your favourite? Check out the range at www.lottie.com, then head back here and tell us!

How on earth is Star Wars rated U (“suitable for all”)?

While speculation is growing on whether the new Star Wars film The Force Awakens will be rated as suitable for children aged 12 and over only, I have been thinking about one of the great mysteries of cinema – how on earth is Star Wars (1977) rated ‘U’?

The current UK movie rating system ranges from U (“suitable for all”*) to 18 (age 18 only). All three of the original Star Wars trilogy are U, while the prequels are respectively U, PG, and 12A.

My daughter, who is 3-years-old, has seen all, bar Revenge of the Sith, multiple times. I’m not sure what age will be the right age for her to see Ep III, but I imagine it will be younger than the BBFC suggested 12.

While the U rating for the original Star Wars was made in 1977, the decision has been revisited and left unrevised since then.

Here are just some of the potentially problematic things that happen in Star Wars (SPOILER ALERT):

  • Darth Vader choking a man to unconsciousness/death
  • The smouldering skeletons of Luke’s murdered Aunt and Uncle are clearly visible
  • Obi-Wan severs the arm of a bar alien, with a shot of the bloody dismembered limb
  • Scores of onscreen deaths by firearms and other means, plus an entire planet is destroyed, presumably killing billions

So how could such a film be classed as a U – suitable for all?

The BBFC has copies of a couple of the original 1977 ratings examiner reports on their website.

This first report is a fairly accurate summary of the film and sensible regarding its tone:

Star Wars, BBFC, Rating decision, Star Wars rated U
Click for larger version (opens in new window)

The reference to “futuristic” (set a long time ago), and the craziest spelling of R2-D2 I have seen (“Artuditu”) aside, its description of a “galactic fairytale” is apt. The conclusion that “We could find little in the film to cause more than a thrill of excitement in a TV-reared generation…” despite being rated PG in the US, is one that as a parent I accept too (although the Jawas did freak my daughter out for a while).

But this other examiner report reads like they were doing the 1977 equivalent of browsing on their smartphone while watching the movie:

Star Wars, BBFC, Rating decision, Star Wars rated U
Click for larger version (opens in new window)

So…

“Set thousands of years in the future…” (as previously mentioned, the film literally begins with “A long time ago…”)

“…the Universe…” (in a galaxy far, far away…)

“…is ruled by Grand Moff Tarkin” (The Emperor is named a ruler)

“From a large planet called ‘The Battle Station’…”  (The Death Star, not a planet)

“The climax of the film is when aircraft from the princess’s planet attack the ‘Battle Station’, led by Luke.” (Spaceships, princess’s planet memorably destroyed, Death Star!, Luke didn’t lead the attack).

There are aspects they’ve clearly misunderstood, but the examiner is literally making things up that are never even mentioned. It’s almost as if they’ve read an early draft of the script rather than watched the finished film.

Still, I can’t argue with the conclusion of “Grand fun for all ages…” and “…a vastly entertaining story.”

I found these reports a fascinating insight into the thought processes that informed these original decisions, and while I question how much attention they were paying to the story, I am glad their common senses assessment of Star Wars still stands. My daughter loves them, and the scary Jawa era aside, has repeatedly returned to them.

(* The BBFC state that “A U film should be suitable for audiences aged four years and over.”)

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What do you think? Is Star Wars “Grand fun for all ages…”? Or is it for older kids only? Please comment below, or joint the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Mums' Days