If Pixar is the granddaddy of new-school animation, it's largely because they make smart movies for adults that happen to appeal to kids. Dreamworks --- the Shrek folks --- take the formula farther, with adult-only humor that goes over kiddies' heads mixed with broad potty slapstick.
I like the 20th Century Fox cartoons --- Ice Age and now Robots ---a tad less, but maybe that's partly because Fox is aiming more squarely at children.
"I liked it a lot," Lila says of Robots. "I think it's good for all ages; Oscar (3) liked it." Indeed he did, and Iris (6) says it's her favorite movie. If the story is more predictable, and the adult humor not as smart and omnipresent as in The Incredibles, maybe that only makes it a better flick for kids.
A quibble would be the use of stars rather than great voices, but Robin Williams shines through his rusty parts. "It sounds as if he doesn't know what he's talking about, although he acts like he's really smart," Lila put it. "He's also the star inventor in Flubber." Good catch. And a dog with an interchangeable voice box provides a great vehicle.
Don't misunderstand; I really enjoyed the film, laughing especially hard at the musical jokes (the super-deluxe voice box at the end brought a hearty guffaw). And the film is visually stunning, particularly during the Rube Goldberg-inspired cross-town-express scene. Roger Ebert favorably compared the color scheme to that of his beloved Fiestaware.
In short, you'll like it and your kids will love it. And it's a big-screener, so don't wait for the DVD.
--- Lila and Adam Wilcox
This week for families:
Brighton Memorial Library storytimes: Mondays 10 a.m. (ages 3-4), 10:30 a.m. (ages 1-2.5); Thursdays 7 p.m. 2300 Elmwood Avenue. 784-5300, www.brightonlibrary.org
Cool Kids Thurs, Mar 24. Stuart Little, Rochester Children's Theatre, Geneseo Community College, Batavia, 7 p.m. Free. 637-3752, 964-7845
Genesee Country Village and Museum 1410 Flint Hill Rd, Mumford. Genesee Country Nature Center hours: Sat-Sun 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 538-6822, www.gcv.org
Head Start/Early Head Start now accepting applications, Action for a Better Community. 325-5116 ext 3300
Henrietta Public Library storytimes: Tuesdays 11-11:30 a.m., Wednesdays 10:15-10:45 a.m. 455 Calkins Rd. 359-7092, www.hpl.org
Hot Shot Final Competition Thurs, Mar 24. ages 9-18, East High School, 1801 E Main St, 7-9 p.m. Free. 428-7294
Penfield Public Library through Apr 30. poetry contest, grades 6-12. 1985 Baird Rd, Penfield. 340-8720
Special Storytime Wed and Fri, Mar 23 and 25. Kevin Serwacki, Barnes & Noble, 330 Greece Ridge Center Dr, Wed 9:30 and 10:30 a.m., Fri 7 p.m. 227-4020
Stormwater Coalition Logo Design Contest for grades 7-12. entry forms: www.monroecounty.gov. deadline: Mar 31.
Swimming Lessons through June 4. Tuesdays and Thursdays 5-8 p.m., Saturdays 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Freddie Thomas Learning Center, 625 Scio St; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 5-8 p.m., James Madison School, 200 Genesee St. 428-7888
Kids on psychoactive drugs
There are more kids on prescribed psychoactive drugs than ever before. Why? Are kids more susceptible to stress nowadays? Do more kids have anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention problems? Is it just that better drugs are available? Are more families demanding prescriptions for these drugs? Do doctors prescribe more easily? Do we, as a society, accept less suffering? Nobody seems to know.
Mark Twain wrote: "It is not what we don't know that's the problem. It is what we know for certain that just ain't so." The promotion of psychoactive medications starts with the myth that attention, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders are primarily due to altered brain chemistry. If you buy that then it makes perfect sense that the growing variety of these drugs work simply by correcting a "chemical imbalance" in our brains.
Of course this "just ain't so." The fact that psychoactive drugs affect brain chemistry does not mean that a huge range of emotional and thinking impairments are just chemistry problems. They are not. They are complex conditions that have roots in family structure, early emotional experiences, relationships, learning styles, genetics, and more. Psychological suffering is no more chemistry than a headache is a lack of aspirin.
On the other hand, we have never had safer, better-controlled, and more effective prescription psychoactive drugs. They work. While this is great progress, it does not mean that these medications alone provide answers. Like aspirin, they relieve symptoms. But nobody really knows how they work, and their effectiveness must not overshadow more holistic therapies. The most effective treatments of psychological problems are customized blends of psychotherapy, changing habits, insight, family change, and maturation, along with symptomatic relief.
We need to be careful not to confuse pills with skills.
--- Laurence I. Sugarman, M.D.