Thursday, January 11, 2007


We went to see Night at the Museum this week with the kids. It was a fun movie -- not a “rolling in the aisles” kind of movie or a “really makes you think” kind of movie, but entertaining and worth the price of the tickets, which I admit was actually $0 since my parents-in-law paid for them. (Thanks guys) There was only one major drawback to the experience that I will get to eventually, but first I have to explain a bit of personal philosophy – something I have dubbed the “Reechard Rule” of movie watching.

It begins with the romantic film Somewhere in Time, which if you missed because you were hiding under a rock during the 80s is about a man named Richard who falls in love with a beautiful actress named Elise McKenna. The only problem is that Elise was born 70 years before Richard and he has to figure out a way to travel back in time to meet her while she’s young and looks like Jane Seymour rather than when she’s old and looks like Dick Cheney. So Richard dresses up in clothes from the early 1900s and learns to hypnotize himself and manages to make the 70 year leap and they fall in love and all is well. That is until the fateful moment (and here’s where my philosophy comes in, thanks for your patience) when the lovers are sharing a blissful picnic on the floor of their hotel room and Richard pulls a 1979 penny from his pocket. He sees the coin and with a look of utter horror realizes that he has broken the spell and thus he is sucked back into his own time, leaving Elise screeching at his vanishing figure with a wail that will forever be remembered and mocked (at least in my circle of friends because we didn’t want to admit that we were sobbing by this point) – “Richard!.... Reeeeeeeechard!!!!”

I think of this scene often because it makes a nice metaphor of the whole movie-watching experience. When I see a movie, I allow myself to be transported – I engage in what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “a willing suspension of disbelief” where I voluntarily turn off my reality sensors so that I can enjoy the show. But sometimes the effort required is just too much and I simply can’t ignore some glaring plot inconsistency or anachronism that jumps out at me like a 1979 penny and I realize that I’m only watching a movie and it’s a stupid movie at that and I’m up to my eyeballs in disbelief. And sometimes the voices in my head yell “Reechard!” at this moment just to bug me, which is why I call this my “Reechard Rule.”

For example, I loved National Treasure and was all caught up in the action and the drama (and willing to ignore the various little technical fallacies along the way) right up until they get a parking spot right outside the museum in Washington D.C. Hello? I’ve been to Washington D.C. several times and the chances of getting a parking spot downtown, let alone snagging that sweet of a spot when you really need it are about zilch. Suddenly the whole film fell apart before my very eyes and I became a cynic who could no longer ignore the fact that Abigail was way too young to have earned a PhD and worked her way into a position of such seniority, and Riley’s goatee kept appearing and disappearing in different shots, and I never really liked Nicolas Cage, and also I shouldn’t have drunk that soda right before the movie because my bladder was uncomfortably full.

Anyway, Night at the Museum was fun and I’m willing to suspend an enormous amount of disbelief when it comes to kids’ movies. But my problem was that Robin Williams is just too big of a star. I love Robin Williams and think he is very funny (and I was a loyal fan even way back in his Mork years, Nanoo Nanoo). But he has long since crossed the threshold where he can pretend to be any character other than himself. I don’t care if he is supposed to be a genie or penguin or stressed-out father figure and he’s acting his little heart out, it will still be him up there on the screen – Robin Williams large as life. [As a side note, I think when actors get to this point, they often star in a film that requires them to completely transform themselves into something radically different, such as a loud, middle-aged woman (as in Mrs. Doubtfire or Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie), but that’s usually their last resort.]

In Night at the Museum, the wax-figure of Teddy Roosevelt (along with everything else in the museum) comes to life at night due to supernatural forces brought to New York by an ancient Egyptian Pharoah’s mummy, and I’m thinking “Sure, I can buy this.” But then Teddy turns around and Hey! it’s Robin Williams™. The first time I saw him, I half expected to hear the theater break out in spontaneous applause like the kind that erupted each time Fonzie made his first appearance in a Happy Days episode. But even without the applause, once Robin showed up, it was all over and soon the pennies were flying at me, one after another. Doink. Doink. Doink. They hit my forehead and left tiny dents of disappointment. They also cracked my resolve to lighten up once in a while and just let myself get carried away by a movie. I can’t help it. Self-hypnosis only works when both participants are willing.


Anonymous said...

Nice. I feel the same way about Robin Williams.

Anonymous said...

Hey that was fun reading Julie, especially because I've just finished watching "Somewhere in Time". I'll take the Reechard-Rule over if you allow ;) Carina

meno said...

Fun reading!

Don't go see Eragon unless you are heavily drugged.

After the line "I suffer without my stone. Relieve my suffering." from John Malkovich, i was mentally outta there.

Anonymous said...

Yup. The last movie that did it for me was Superman. I would have walked out, but we walked to the theater and it was 99 outside that day. So I stayed in the airconditioning.

Glad your back in blogworld!

Anonymous said...

I was expecting absolutely nothing from this movie, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself enjoying it. It probably helped that I went to the 10 pm showing with my family!

Anonymous said...

This is soooo true, your whole theory! I have noticed the same thing. When I saw Eragon (which I had to chuckle that someone else wrote about that movie under this same idea as well) I became critical after the growing scene of Saphira & then her voice... good grief (even though I love rachel weiss). And I totally hear ya, meno, about malcovich... that was no good for me at all.

Anonymous said...

Who else could tie in STC's Biographia Literaria and Nicholas Cage in the same post?

I feel the same way about movies. I can believe quite a bit--but only so much.

The Daring One said...

I much prefer the "Reechard principle" to "suspension of disbelief."

And this...? "rather than when she’s old and looks like Dick Cheney" This???? I don't know what I can do with this. You are too funny.

Reel Fanatic said...

I was shocked by just how much I liked Night at the Museum .. It was almost as smart as it was funny, and I liked Robin Williams as Mr. Roosevelt, though I can certainly see how some people wouldn't be able to buy it

Anonymous said...

Wow. I completely Get This. We really liked Somewhere In Time, but I never thought to extend the penny scene to movie-watching. And the voices in *my* head thank you for giving them a little "Reechard" for their amusement. At my expense of course.

Annoyance #47: when people say "willing suspension of belief" but mean disbelief.

Also, that self-hypnosis line? Perfect. Ending.

Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

"Dick Cheney" made me laugh too. I can just hear what Christopher Reeve is thinking when she comes up to him after his play and hands him that pocketwatch - "Who is this old crone? And why is she giving me this piece of crap watch in front of my cute young 80s perm girlfriend?"

I love the Reechard rule. I'm totally using that. Great blog - think I'll spend some quality time with your archives. :)

Kate said...

Might I suggest not becoming a psychologist if you enjoy watching any sort of psychological thriller, takes-place-in-a-psych-hospital, uses-words-like-schizophrenic, includes crazy people, once had a crazy person related to someone on the camera crew, type of movie. It's exhausting to constantly yell at the TV.

And don't get me started on the difference between "psychopath" and "sociopath" in crime shows. Bah.

A Payne said...

That's great! I had never seen the word "zilch" written out before. I say the word zilch, I would like to use the word zilch in my writing, but if I can't find it in the dictionary, I usually skip it. You are the WOMAN!

We have a "Reeechard Principle" in our house, but we call it the "Leon Principle". Whenever, I am on the comode and I run out of toilet paper I yell, "Leeeeeooon!" Leon is my husbands middle name and it's his cue to go get me a roll of toilet paper! I think everyone should use this principle,but with their own partners middle name.

Kimberly said...

What a fabulous post! I'm not half so articulate as you, so I can't express just how much of an "Ah hah!" moment this gave me.

My ability to self-hypnotize is one of my hubby's greatest sources of amusement. I sink into movies to such a degree, and the oddest things can ruin it for me. It always gives Neil a chuckle when I'm watching a sci-fi movie and have it ruined by something I consider "unrealistic", when the whole story is, well, just that; a story! ~lol~

Anyway, brilliantly written!