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Hammerle On… 'Obvious Child,' 'How to Train Your Dragon 2'

Robert Hammerle
July 16, 2014
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“Obvious Child”

I really loved “Obvious Child,” and I fully understood its meaning. Women will not just understand it, but they will feel the searing emotional significance of this wonderful movie. That is a profound difference.

Jenny Slate is irresistible playing Donna Stern, a standup comic whose life is unraveling. Her boyfriend leaves her by announcing that he will be moving in with her best friend, and she finds herself pregnant after a drunken one-night stand with an interesting stranger.

She is decent, funny and on the verge of unraveling. She quickly decides on an abortion, and the ramifications manifest themselves in a warmth seldom seen on the screen.

Her divorced parents, played by Richard Kind and Polly Draper, try to lend a helping hand. Her mother even reveals she also had an abortion decades ago in college, and Donna and the audience are reminded quickly that an unwanted pregnancy is anything but rare in most families.

Incredibly, this film finds a way to find humor in nearly every dark corner of Donna’s life. Donna is surrounded by caring people, as when her father reminds her that many people find genius when they are at their lowest emotional moment.hammerle-obvious.jpg
One of the many touching moments of this film comes from Donna’s growing relationship with Max, the man who knocked her up. Played by Jake Lacy, he is a guy who must decide whether to walk away or rally to her side.
Additionally, there is a completely magnificent scene surrounding the moment when Donna ends up hitting the hay with Max. Gradually getting intoxicated, they go back to his place where they engaged in a captivating dance scene with Paul Simon singing the title song of the film, “Obvious Child.” It’s a beautiful picture of romance with a stranger, and it isn’t hard to understand how she really couldn’t recall if they used the condom that both were trying to open.

The decision by Donna to have an abortion is a story that will empower women. The recent Supreme Court opinion in the Hobby Lobby case, a decision where the five majority members are all Roman Catholic males, ironically sits center stage. Watching Donna, everyone understands that while the Right to Life movement demands that all pregnancies equate to birth, they then turn their backs, yelling “To hell with them. They’re the parents’ responsibility, not the government’s.”

The decisions that all pregnant women face are emotionally difficult under the best circumstances. That decision should be left up to the individual woman, not men running corporations or sitting on the United States Supreme Court. The three women on that Supreme Court understand that fundamental fact, and it’s time for all of us to do the same thing.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2”

Once in a while an animated film becomes a sterling adult experience. Sure, most of us need kids for company to justify the trip. It is embarrassing to sit alone and get emotionally wrapped up in an animated feature where you have a little tear in your eye.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” falls into that category. My two grandkids finally found time in their busy schedules for me, and their parents came along for the ride. Everybody loved it, and the film evolved into a legitimate human drama that never disappointed.

The first “How to Train Your Dragon” film appeared five years ago, which is hard to believe. In that film, we discovered Hiccup and his wounded dragon Toothless as they accompanied each other on a quest to have humans and dragons trust one another. That wasn’t easy.

In this film, Hiccup’s father is the head of a kingdom that has embraced dragons with the same love that we do dogs and cats. Everybody but Hiccup is having a great time, and he sets out on a quest as if he was a Nordic version of Christopher Columbus.

hammerle-dragon.jpg

In the process, he discovers new lands and new villains, and the question remains who will triumph. Although it isn’t hard to guess the answer, it makes for a pretty spirited journey. Hiccup is an immensely likeable kid with a heart of gold, and his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrera) is never far behind.

Central to the film is Hiccup’s reluctance to succeed his stern but loveable father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), as the leader of their clan. He balks at administrative duties, and his quests for new worlds lead him to the astonishing discovery of his long-missing mother. She is voiced by Cate Blanchett, and you soon realize that the two have a lot in common.

There is a nasty villain in the film known as Drago (Djimon Hounsou), and he holds humans and dragons in complete disdain. For reasons that you will see, he has the ability to hypnotize dragons, and Toothless is put in complete peril. While the kids squirm a bit in their seats, you can’t help but feel a bit uneasy at Toothless’ fate.

The film’s visual effects developed by Motohisa Adachi resemble some of the magnificent scenes in “Avatar” (2009). The scenes are beautiful, and high pitch battles with Drago’s forces leaves lives on the line.

The great thing about “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is that it reflects an attempt to cure profound divisions in their world. It reminds me of my favorite T-shirt displaying a cross, the Star of David and a Muslim symbol. Underneath it is the phrase, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Hiccup and his mother, Valka, confront the same problem, and they are determined to overcome it. They embrace love, tolerance and respect as the fundamental building blocks in life, which include the rights of all dragons to live their lives in peace.

As I watch Tea Party members criticize President Barack Obama at every turn in our country, Sunnis battling Shiites while Arabs battle Persians in the Middle East and Russians fight Ukrainians for reasons defying explanation, you almost wish that Hiccup and Toothless were around in our world. Why is everyone everywhere encouraged to be so bitter, angry and hateful?

Some guy in history once said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Was that Hiccup?

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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