explorations of mindful fatherhood

NeverEnding Disappointment


neverending2I’ve become my mother.  I mean, in terms of cultural relevance.  When I was about 10-years-old, my family was in the video store (remember those?), but my sibs and I couldn’t find anything we wanted to watch.  So my mom suggested we watch this “hilarious” comedy A New Leaf, starring Walter Matthau and Elaine May.  She told us we’d love it.  We hated it.  It was really cheesy.  As 4- to 10-year-olds we couldn’t appreciate any of the 1971 film’s nuances, and we made fun of my mom for the suggestion.  She didn’t live that one down for another decade.  Every time we were indecisive about a movie, someone would suggest A New Leaf and elbow my mom.

Now in my house, my wife and I both scramble to get to the Netflix queue first and rearrange things to suit our own likes.  I’ll scramble to get Looper to the top, while she’s sneaking on-line to bump up Hope Springs.   So recently I battled to get The Neverending Story on the top of the list for our weekly family movie night with our 6-year-old.  I won, and we sat down one recent Friday to watch.

The synthesizer music, the blue screen, the dog/dragon with the animatronic face.  Awesome.  Every bit of it.  But not to my family.

My son kept jumping around the room and climbing on the couches.  For a 6-year-old, he’s got a great attention span.  The kid can really sit through a movie when he enjoys something.  So when he’s all wiggly, we can tell he’s not into the movie.  Well he was really wiggly.  Plus, my wife kept shooting me these weird looks as if to say, “Nice one dude…what the hell are we watching?”

Okay.  I’ll admit, Falkor’s jaw movements don’t sync up with his voice, the courtiers at the Empress’s temple (with their many-sided faces or massive heads) are pretty freakish, and the crossover into the real-world when Bastian flies over the city and lands the bullies in a dumpster doesn’t really make sense.  I can recognize all of these flaws and yet I love the movie.

I’m guessing that’s probably how my mom felt.  She really liked that Walter Matthau movie and, in some way, wanted her kids to share in that experience.  But it wasn’t part of our generation.  We didn’t get it, and she was left feeling disappointed.  That’s how I felt with The Never Ending Story.  I wanted everyone to love it and, in a way, get them to connect with the feelings I had when I watched the movie for the first time.

I still love The Neverending Story.  It came out in 1984 when I was just 9-years-old.  It was one of those movies that made me believe in the imagination and feel like I could do anything inside my mind.  But I can’t just inject that feeling into my 6-year-old, 21st century son.  I guess that’s something he’ll have to find on his own, from the hallmarks of his own generation.  I’ll just have to chalk it up to a generation gap, and hope that he finds his own sense of wonder in the movies of today.

But in the meantime, watching the Dark Crystal couldn’t hurt, could it?


Author: CJ Nigh

I am an East Coast writer with a Midwestern soul. Undead Dad is a blog about mindful fatherhood in the deadening age of hyper-technology and over-work. I also write science fiction for young adults.

10 thoughts on “NeverEnding Disappointment

  1. I feel much the same. Our boys are 5 and 3, and have only developed enough of an attention span to sit through a film over the past 12 months. Like your son, they’re quick to display their boredom. So, most things by Pixar work well – the Cars films, the Toy Story trilogy, that sort of thing – and our older boy loves the originalDisney Alice in Wonderland (it helps that it’s currently his favourite bedtime story), but by and large they just don’t have any respect for the ‘classics’, do they? My catalogue of failures is legion. Back to the Future trilogy? No. Star Wars? No. (I mean, come on, what kid doesn’t love Star Wars?!?) The slapstick of old Harold Lloyd movies (which I adore)? No. It’s almost like they have a built-in radar that says “Old film! Old film! For old people! Like DADDY! NOOOOOO!!!”

    Still, when it works it’s lovely to sit down and watch a film together. Even if I now know the script to Toy Story 3 backwards.

    • Tim, Agreed! There’s a part of me that holds onto this false hope that when he’s old enough, he’ll really get it. Like when he’s 10 we’ll sit down to Marty McFly and he’ll turn to me and say “You’re right dad, that is one of the coolest time travel movies ever!” I know it won’t happen, but I can dream.

      I do think it’s great that parents of our generation are perhaps more prone to watching movies with their kids and becoming mutual fans. I’ve come to love lots of Pixar movies (even when watched ad infinitum), and can cheer along with my son. My memories of childhood were that there were the “kids’ movies” and then my “parents’ movies” and ne’er the twain shall meet. It’s nice that we can sit down with them and make memories of watching together. But I tell you, if I watch Milo and Otis one more time, I think my head might explode. CJ

  2. For me it’s not so much the movie or whatever it is itself, but the feeling that somehow my child is rejecting some thing that is a part of me… That’s tough – but you’ve handled it with real grace it seems.

  3. I enjoyed your blog and thanks for checking out one of mine! know how you feel about the movie. It has happened to me…way back when my 29 year old and 25 year old were young kids. I struck out several times with movies. But then, I hit a homerun with one of my old school favorites, “Arthur” (the original with Dudley Moore et al). I can’t remember how old they were…only that they were laughing as much as my wife and I were. It erased everyone’s memories of what the misses were and they each still bring up Arthur from time to time.

  4. Sorry, but I almost forgot….The Neverending Story is pretty lame. And the kids may actually enjoy Back Into The Future some day. Some stuff is very generational and some transcends. Keep trying! I would recommend against trying it with music…ouch!

  5. You totally missed the window on this one, dude. I showed Neverending Story to my kids when my son was 4. He bought it hook-line-and-sinker.

    Time to inventory your movie list to make sure you don’t blow it with “Princess Bride”.


  6. I recently quoted The Princess Bride to a room of Jr. Highers. None of them knew what I was talking about…so sad. I guess some of the good ones like Neverending Story will now just live as “classics”. *sigh*

  7. Rest assured that The Dark Crystal should go over better. I, too insist on my kids (ages 8,9,11 & 15) watching my childhood favourites. They all found The Neverending Story and The Sound of Music boring but every one of them (including my fifteen yer old daughter) loved The Dark Crystal, The Princess Bride, Labyrinth and the Back to the Future movies, and my two older girls even liked Captains Courageous! Try some of the older disney films too – they really are timeless. Don’t give up. You’ll win some, you’ll lose some, but chances are you will find at least one childhood favourite that resounds with your son as well.

  8. Oh, I forgot to mention that, though he couldn’t follow the entire storyline and he got fidgety during the ‘boring bits’, my son’s favourite movie when he was six was Backdraft. He would ask for it to be played over and over and he was determined that he was going to be a firefighter when he grows up. Isn’t it strange what our kids attach themselves to?

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