My parents started a tradition of taking my sister and me out to a fancy dinner and a movie on New Year’s Eve when we were teenagers. It quickly became one of the high points of the year for Christina and me. I still remember the first place we had dinner. It was a steak place called Rebrof in Pensacola. You could cook your own steak over a huge blazing grill if you wanted to. The first film we saw together was Dune starring Kyle Maclachlan and Sting!
During one of the following years, I was allowed to choose the movie and selected Broadcast News with Holly Hunter, William Hurt, and Albert Brooks. The film was the kind that wins awards. Morally complex, no real heroes, no clear route to happiness. As an emerging adult, I liked it. Found it very stimulating and thoughtful. When I asked my folks for their reaction, I was disappointed to hear that they didn’t enjoy the film. Both my mother and father stated their preference for a film which would uplift and entertain them.
I may have finally become old enough to appreciate their sentiment. My son Andrew (age nine) and I went to a Saturday matinee showing of Real Steel with Hugh Jackman. Without giving too much away, you might say the film is a high tech remake of Rocky.
A film critic might look at Real Steel and say, “I’ve seen this story before. It lacks gritty reality.” OR “Not another happy ending in which all the problems are solved in under two hours.” I think a critic could say those things about Real Steel and maybe be right by way of description, but none of it makes any difference. The film is entertaining, edifying, and redemptive. It is the kind of story that encourages people never to give up, that it is never too late to do the right thing, and that money falls well down the list of what is really important. And it does all this in a way that holds you from start to finish. I’m the kind of guy who deconstructs films and stories, looking for manipulation and time-tested tricks. Sometimes, I congratulate myself for being such a savvy consumer of pop culture and media.
Real Steel is the kind of movie that makes me want to throw all the analysis out the window and sign up for the full emotional commitment. And that’s worth a lot more than I paid to get in the door.