Sunday, January 31, 2016

Imaginary Friends and Gooby (2009)

I love movies, if you couldn’t tell.  I’ve grown up watching movies all the time.  And though I didn’t have the greatest restrictions on what I could watch as a child (I saw The Dead Zone, Lethal Weapon, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show a lot at a young age), I have an idea of what kids tend to watch.  There are movies designed specifically to entertain children.  They target a child’s dreams and imagination, opening a world that was previously only in their heads.  Everything that they ever thought possible is brought to life before their very eyes.  A childlike wonder, whether bright and cheery, dark and chilling, or somewhere in between, manages to shine through in most family movies.

Filmmakers take different approaches to visualizing what children imagine.  There are movies much like any other action or adventure movie that show the adventurous nature of children.  The Goonies has given generations of children the sense of adventure that they don’t get in their everyday lives.  There are movies that bring the nightmares of children alive in ways that horrify even adults.  Take Return to Oz for example.  That movie creeps me out even now, as I’m an adult writing this.  It is like a mixture of bad thoughts that I had as a child brought to life on screen.  Another thing that can be brought to life on screen is a child’s desire for friendship and comradery.

No movie has tapped into children’s discovery of new friends better than E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.  But I’m not going to focus completely on that.  I’m going to talk about Gooby because this isn’t Sunday “Good” Movies.  This is Sunday “Bad” Movies and I get my points across by watching bad movies every week.  Gooby is a bad movie.  It follows Willy (Matthew Knight) as he moves to a new house, starts at a new school, and tries to live life with parents who seem to forget about him.  After a while, a teddy bear named Gooby (Robbie Coltrane) comes to life and befriends Willy.  It leads to wacky shenanigans and the addressing of the family issues.

Gooby is basically a personification of an imaginary friend.  You know, those friends you had as a kid that weren’t really friends because they weren’t really there?  (On a sidenote, my imaginary friend as a child was a Power Ranger)  Yeah, Gooby is pretty much an imaginary friend except that he’s a real, physical being.  Nobody is going to believe Willy when he says that he has a giant, fuzzy, orange best friend.  For that reason, Willy tries to hide Gooby away in the shed in his backyard.  Willy is the only person to interact with Gooby throughout the majority of the movie, just like a child would be the only person to interact with their imaginary friend.  It’s a decent idea poorly executed because of a myriad of reasons unrelated to the concept.

The question I have to ask is the following.  Why do stories that involve real imaginary friends seem to be so popular among children?  You’ve got Gooby, a giant teddy bear come to life.  There’s E.T., an alien that only the kids interact with until the adults come to take him away.  Of course Mac from Mac and Me would be lumped in here as well, since that movie is a blatant E.T. rip-off.  What is it about these movies that connect with children so well?  It might have to do with the innocence that many children have.  Young children who have imaginary friends might relate to the child characters.  Or perhaps the children just like to see goofy looking characters parading around on screen.

These types of movies aren’t only aiming at the children for an audience, but the parents as well.  There is a lot for an adult to take out of the story if done well.  The movies are a representation of growing up and shedding the innocence of an imaginary friend.  They portray how, as much as you might try to hold onto your childhood, there will be a time when you have to grow up.  Throughout Gooby, Willy is trying to hide his friend away.  Nearing the end of the movie, he has to let his friend free to help someone else, thus outgrowing the bear that he had befriended.  Willy had grown to a point where he didn’t need Gooby anymore.  This is a child outgrowing their imaginary friend and making real connections in life.  E.T. goes one step further by showing the adults trying to take away the friend before the child was ready to give the friend up.  The special agents try and succeed in capturing the alien (a representation of an imaginary friend) and almost kill Elliott by taking E.T. away.  Eventually, Elliott is ready to part with his friend on his own terms and sends E.T. home.

In a way, these types of family movies are coming of age stories.  They aren’t coming of age in the way that the teenagers finding their place in life movies are.  Gooby and Mac and Me are not the same sort of coming of age story as The Breakfast Club or Almost Famous.  They aren’t about a kid finding his place in the world.  They are coming of age in that the kid discovers that it is time to grow up.  It is time to put the childhood innocence behind, while still being a child.  These movies cover the first step of growing up.  They portray children coming of a different age in their life than the teenage movies that are commonly labeled coming of age stories.  The difference is that instead of targeting nostalgic adults for an audience, the target is nostalgic children thinking back to their younger childhood.  It’s a coming of age tale for a different age.

Gooby is not a good movie.  Not at all.  But it manages to encapsulate the longing for friendship that people of all ages have.  It brings a child’s imaginary friend to life.  It has the child shedding that friendship of his own mind and moving on to make connections with other people.  It might not do the best job at showing that, but it’s there all the same.  Willy is getting rid of the young child hang-ups and becoming a more open person.  He is open to new friendships, new opportunities, and his new place in the world.  Gooby sets all of that up.  As do other movies that attempt this kind of story.  For that, I commend them, even if Gooby and Mac and Me aren’t all that great.  At least the idea is there.
Something that is here is this list of notes:

  • During this post, I mentioned Mac and Me, another movie that I covered for the Sunday “Bad” Movies.
  • Robbie Coltrane has been featured in a previous movie for the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  That movie was Flash Gordon.
  • Two actors from The Good Witch were also in Gooby.  They were Paula Boudreau and Matthew Knight.
  • Have you seen Gooby?  What do you think of my imaginary friends come to life assessment?  You can talk about anything related to this post in the comments section.
  • The comments section can also be used to suggest movies for future Sunday “Bad” Movies posts.  I’m always looking for more movies to add to my long list of possibilities.  If you don’t want to use the comments section, you can also find me on Twitter and tell me there.
  • Next week, the movie is going to be Fifty Shades of Black.  That’s right.  I’m going to watch a movie in the theater and then write about it for the Sunday “Bad” Movies.  This will be interesting.  I’ll see you then.
  • Next week is going to be Chop Kick Panda.  My original plans didn’t work out, and this is a substitute that works well considering Kung Fu Panda 3 was just released.  So, that is what’s going on.

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