"Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" is coming back on Friday.
With so many different entertainment options out there for your children, we at PopcornBiz thought we'd take a moment each week to dissect one piece of family entertainment strictly from a parent's perspective, so that you know what parts are appropriate for your loved ones, and which are not. This week's COVER YOUR EYES subject: “Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”
I'm not sure there's been a more widely reviled movie in history than "Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace." There have been WORSE movies, to be certain. If you watched "Menace" without ever having seen the original "Star Wars" trilogy, you probably wouldn't be offended by it. But no movie has ever been saddled with the combination of expectations and fan-boy childhood baggage that this movie had weighing it down. I'm not sure ANY movie could have lived up to what people were hoping for from "Menace." Movies are such an indelible part of the childhood experience that it's nearly impossible to have that same kind of intense connection with a movie once you've become an adult.
As a result, "Menace" was loathed by most of the fanboy population. It didn't help, of course, that the movie was bad. The title is bad. The plot is bad. The acting is bad. The writing is putrid. The whole thing was a worst-case scenario come to life. And now, here we are, thirteen years later, ready to be subjected to it all over again, in 3D, no less. How can Lucasfilm re-release this movie when so many people hate the very soul of it? Well, it turns out that kids lack good taste and will see anything, and so the new 3D theatrical release of "Menace" is designed so that they will force you to give more money to George Lucas through gritted teeth. Is it okay to subject your kids to this movie? Let's consider a few factors:
The “Will Parents Be Able To Tolerate It?” Factor: Eh... Probably not. "The Phantom Menace" is the kind of movie that gets worse with each subsequent viewing. Think the whole "
" thing is annoying? Wait until you watch it for the eighth time and really begin to dissect how nonsensical the whole thing is. Plus, every time you watch is a reminder that this movie happened and that it cannot be undone. There's no going back in time and making this into the kind of movie you wish it had been. Horrible.
The Dead Parent Factor: Anakin Skywalker and his mom are slaves. When Liam Neeson asks where little Anakin's dad is, the mom says he never had a dad, and that hers was an immaculate conception. Sure, lady. Sure it was. Anyway, Anakin then has to go off with Liam Neeson, leaving his poor slave mommy behind. If this had been a Pixar film, that scene would have been wrenching. But since this is a George Lucas movie, it's about as moving as eating a bologna sandwich. Your kid will barely notice.
The Sexy Sex Sex Factor: None. If your kid decides to soldier on with this trilogy, you'll have to explain to him how Anakin apparently grew up three times faster than Natalie Portman. But that's not of your concern for this film.
The Scare Factor: Minimal. Darth Maul is more cool than scary, and Liam Neeson's death is a bummer only because you know the prequels will now be left with one less competent actor. None of this carries much emotional weight. What's of far greater concern to parents is how ANTIC this movie is. There are light saber duels and loud music and ships shooting lasers at each other and all that business. Your kid will almost certainly be a terror once it's over. It's like feeding your child sugar through his eyes.
The Violence Factor: All bloodless. Darth Maul's death is annoying because he was a cool villain and only lasted through one film.
The Racism Factor: HUGE. Watto is clearly an anti-Semitic stereotype. And Jar Jar Binks manages to be a horrible composite of at least eighty-seven different racist stock characters. Your child will notice none of this, but that's what makes it all even worse.
Age Range: 6 and up. No blood. No strong emotional components. It's perfect for kids. No wonder Lucas made a mint off of it. LUCAS!!!!!