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Getting Married – Flying on the Trapeze

Pitchford Wedding

Today many couples say that they want to ‘try out’ the relationship first before getting married. Their rationale is that by living together they want to ‘try before they buy’ so they don’t make the mistake of marrying the wrong person. On the surface it seems logical. After all, why not measure twice and cut once? But what is lost in the equation is that they’re losing sight of the difference between flying on the trapeze with a safety net and flying without. It’s a unique aspect of life that kicks us into a higher gear where we perform with greater commitment and our brain, stamina and heart lift to a higher level. I don’t know if you’ve seen the cartoon with the pig and the hen. The hen is telling of its wonderful eggs made available to breakfast plates of bacon and eggs everywhere when the pig jumps in. He cuts to the chase saying, “Huh! For you it’s a contribution but for me its total commitment!”

In my work in the media we can now pre-record audio and video before we broadcast the production. Somehow in the brain that lets us off the hook as a presenter to make a few mistakes, delete the recording and do it again. I know from personal experience, whether on stage or behind the microphone that I’m actually better when its live. You know its got to work and you draw on all your training and creativity to make it a success. The one thing I’ve learned in our marriage is that it’s not a dress rehearsal, its a live performance.

These days it seems we’ve scared a lot of people out of the joy of marriage by the horror stories of divorces gone wrong and mismatched personalities. Sadly they’ve had more publicity through TV soaps, movies and the 6 o’clock news than the successful stories of loving marriages. Why do we only hear about marriage success if a couple makes it to 50 or 60 years? One thing I love about our church is that every Sunday you can go up the front for a free Crunchie chocolate bar if you have something to celebrate from getting your driver’s licence to the arrival of your first grand-child. Every week married couples go up celebrating their wedding anniversary. I love hearing that a couple are in their 14th, 29th or 40th year of marriage and then to see them go up and walk back hand in hand. We seem to have a generation that thinks they will last longer in marriage if they wait till they’re older and yet I would say I’ve seen a majority of young love marriages be the ones that last to say they started strong and finished stronger.

Cheryl and I have known each other for 24 years and we will soon be celebrating our 22nd Wedding Anniversary. This year we are heading away for a weekend at a beach. We probably can only afford to do this kind of thing every 4-5 years but it’s always worth it. I know that through those years we’ve had moments where we wondered how we could keep going. Sometimes it was a big problem but more often than not our pride stumbled on a small stone in the road. I’ve often found we can resolve the issues pretty quick its the part where we have to humble ourselves that actually is the hardest piece of the puzzle.

The best advertisement for marriage is marriage. The photo above shows my stunning babe on our Wedding Day when she was 19 years-old. We still speak of her as my ‘China Doll’, she looked so stunning. We’re a happily married couple with four beautiful kids who we love dearly. As our children are in the 13 to 20 age-group we are starting to enter a new phase of life as we have more adult life experience conversation with them. This is adding to our marriage and giving us a great privilege as Mum and Dad to be involved in our kids life decisions. This is also a pivotal year as our eldest daughter is engaged and preparing for getting married later in the year. What an incredible opportunity for us as parents. We can be inspired by their young warm smitten love and at the same time be able to grab the moment to model a marriage worth pursuing.

We are so proud to have brought them into this world and as I look at the photos around our house of our lives together I can see what value there is in a marriage built without a safety net. We haven’t relied on divorce as an out, or a prenuptial agreement as an exit clause but instead we’ve flown high on the trapeze. We’ve enjoyed the view and the thrills knowing that we need to keep our eyes on God as our ‘catcher’ for this amazing experience. I know we have friends and family who have had to walk through the pain of divorce and we know it isn’t a path they wanted to choose. The life lesson that has kept me honest to the man in the mirror is that I can’t let myself have an out if I’m going to be the best husband, lover, Dad and friend to my wife and family.

Tell your family and friends about what has inspired, taught and challenged you as your marriage has grown. You never know who is looking on and thinking of getting married. And guys, lets not leave it to the ladies to tell the romantic stories to the next generation. A happy bloke is a husband who feels secure with his wife and isn’t afraid to sneak a kiss in front of the kids.

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Media

Movie Review: Safe Haven

Safe Haven Movie Review

Safe Haven is launching in theatres on Valentine’s Day and for the Nicholas Sparks inspired movie this is prime position for another romantic drama to stand alongside his previous works like ‘A Walk to Remember’, ‘The Notebook’ and ‘The Lucky One’. My 15yo daughter was asking after the movie well in advance of its release, wanting to accompany her Dad to the review and for both of us it was a memorable night out. There’s no doubt that Sparks knows how to play the heartstrings and this feature film was always expecting to line up the romantically inclined for a ride. It was clear even from the preview crowd that this was well targeted to the female audience with only about six male members attending amongst a crowd of around 120.

The precept for this encounter surrounds a mysterious young lady on the run with fear in her eyes only to hide in a small American coastal town. Taking the name Katie, our damsel played by Julianne Hough, begins to trust the locals and falls for solo Dad Alex who is raising his two children after the death of his wife from cancer. With two broken people trying to find a fresh start the stage is set for hands edging together in the sand and sunlit backdrops to make you go ‘Aaaah’.

Director Lasse Hallström returns to the Sparks fold after his previous involvement heading up ‘Dear John’. Hallström is rightly revered for his works on Chocolat and The Cider House Rules and although this doesn’t quite draw out the same level of drama the production is very comfortable and meshes together the romantic aspects of a warm family friendly tale with some edgy thriller paced pieces in the story.

Julianne Hough is very ‘at home’ in this role as a woman with a past reaching out for protection and love. Its classic damsel stuff that needs a knight that stands tall in stature. Josh Duhamel is the right man for the job as Alex a Dad trying to raise a cute little lady who remembers the presence of her Mother before she passed away. It’s a role that takes him a long way from the Transformer’s franchise and one he seems settled to enjoy. This was a debut performance for Mimi Kirkland as little Lexie and one she handles well stealing scene after scene with sparkles of cuteness. Dad, Alex’s job is a lot harder dealing with his older child Josh played by Noah Lomax. Josh remembers his Mum and doesn’t want his Dad to forget the lady he remembers for the woman who is new on the scene.

While this could be the guy meets girl routine we do have a couple of surprises thanks to Katie’s past catching up with her. David Lyons gives us another great performance as Tierney and I enjoyed the power of his commitment that puts more edge in the story. If you’ve loved his maniacal side in the TV series REVOLUTION then you’re in for more of a treat. Sometimes we cling close for love and sometimes we cling
closer to hide the fear. Safe Haven will have to fight for its happy ending but it is definitely worth its Valentine’s Day release to enjoy a night out for the ladies.

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Loving with Our Senses

Dad and Son

I’m sitting outside in the cool summer breeze of a Kiwi evening thinking of all the love I’ve experienced today from my family. What occurs to me is that I’ve had to be awake to loving with our senses. If I hadn’t paid attention I would have missed the power of love and it’s intoxicating inspiration.

You may be wondering what I’ve been drinking with these philosophical comments but the only motivation was life and the only drink on the table is water. I’m caught up in this moment hearing my daughter sing like a diva in the background and remembering moments through the day when I saw, tasted, touched and heard love. It was easy to absorb, gentle to miss and powerful to behold.

Let love present its reckless offers and let my senses be ever open, always receiving from their passionate assault.

Let me tell you how I woke up. It wasn’t early, it wasn’t like waking to the chirps of a trained choir of canaries and yet it was clearly more memorable. My twelve year-old son came in with a tray of a steaming hot cooked breakfast and coffee. And thoughtfulness went the extra mile when a bottle of HP sauce was on the tray with knife, fork and a serviette. My wife later filled in the back-story of how he had eyed up some bacon in the fridge and asked if he could cook it. She gently pushed him that there was enough bacon for him to cook his Dad some breakfast and still have enough left for his teenage appetite and so he took up the challenge.

Accepting a gift is the first rule of love. Knowing how to thank the giver is the second. Loving with our senses can involve the taste of a morning breakfast or the touch of a huggable friend. My son loves hugs and the time they take to be near each other. It’s a great response to his generosity to wrap my arms around him and thank him. Now my son’s morning cooking was wonderful and perfect but love can eat a burnt breakfast or salty muffin and still receive the best part of the gift. If you didn’t know your heart has taste buds, bite in again.

Once everyone had shaken the night from their eyes the family went out to enjoy the heat of a cloud free summer’s day. We had family visiting so we took them on a tour of some of the volcanic mountain viewing platforms that surround Auckland. As part of the trip my oldest son brought his newly acquired longboard so we could check with the shop if it was working properly. After going to the shop I complemented him on how well he had handled the visit and the preceding phone calls. He had dealt as a customer with a complaint and yet handled the issue with firmness and humility. I was impressed and didn’t miss the opportunity to tell him he had done well.

A short time later, as we drove to our first destination, he said three softly spoken words; “Love You Dad”. Most fathers will know the power that comes when an 18yo utters those words. It belies a deeper heart, a relationship of love and strength. I buckled a little like a warrior in space hit by an unseen force that buffeted him backwards through the vacuum. My hearing isn’t what it used to be but somehow I am always tuned in to hear these words whenever they are uttered. It doesn’t matter whether they are given in the most quiet delivery or amongst the mish-mash of a loud and crowded room. Listening had made me vulnerable to love, to hearing words that can change a relationship, build a bridge and more importantly melt the walls of a heart. Loving with our senses needs to be intentional, to absorb the love that is happening and emanating around us.

I don’t want to miss the whispers of love, the glimpses of generosity or the feather like touches of care and concern.

Later that day I experienced the joy of love by simply watching. Our eldest son had not always enjoyed the outdoors or sports but his new longboard had given him a zest to get out and ride. The skills were building and he’d been inspired by YouTube videos of experienced speed riders. Today I was inspired as he rode his board around a city park and then near the wharf. His joy was obvious and the pleasure was simple and infectious. Who wouldn’t want to balance their way on a board that put more breeze in your travel and speed under foot.

At one point in the day he shared his board with a three year-old relative and the passion and laughter in sharing was also present. After a walk around the crater’s edge of Mt. Eden he kicked back and lay in deep dry waving grass at the summit. His pleasure is my pleasure. We wanted to take photos of him laying amongst the dry wheat like blades of grass but in doing so he asked for a camera to shoot what he saw. From his position he could see the majesty of sunbeams glancing through tree branches and he took a few photos to remember his moment in the grass. Today I enjoyed loving my son by simply watching him enjoy life, family and the simple thrill of a skateboard.

Over the last few days our visiting relatives have been caught out on at least three occasions thinking the sound coming from one room was either the radio or another music source. On each occasion it was our 14yo daughter delivering an incredible vocal performance of either a cover song she was practicing for a busking adventure or working on one of her own creations. She has a powerful beautiful voice and it can fill a room when she belts out a song.

I may find my senses become dulled to the crystal clear sound of a life filled with wonder.

A problem for love is taking talent or good behaviour for granted. It could be a wife who daily cooks with care and thoughtfulness, a husband who keeps to time and tells you what he’s doing or a child who does a chore without being asked. Monotony of excellence should never be an excuse for the spectacular to become the blasé. As I enjoyed several moments this afternoon I realized how blessed I am as a Father and a listener to be hearing my daughter perform her singing in our home. Loving with our senses meant I had to be aware that at any moment I could receive a royal command performance intentionally or otherwise meant just for me. Listening to her sing in one room while practising, then at the dinner table as we jokingly sang, drummed and beat boxed together allowed me to hear love, feel love and be loved.

Today I resolve to be awake to love. I don’t want to miss the whispers of love, the glimpses of generosity or the feather like touches of care and concern. If I am so engrossed in my own world that I am cocooned from love I may find my senses become dulled to the crystal clear sound of a life filled with wonder. I don’t want to be safe where my misguided perception is that a closed quiet room is better than leaving my bed to enjoy the warm embrace of a friend. Let love present its reckless offers and let my senses be ever open, always receiving from their passionate assault.

Originally written January 5th 2013

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Facing a Fresh Future – 2013 New Year’s Day

Time Pieces

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
– Albert Einstein

Last week the New Year was knocking on the front door and casually pressing the door bell but today its got the SWAT team out and they’re about to knock down the door to our lives with a battering ram. The good news is with the New Year upon us, the fresh calendar is like a plowed field ready for planting. Don’t look at the next twelve months as a pioneer looks at the uncleared wilderness, rather change your gaze to be like a developer looking at the land his investment has purchased on the most expensive piece of real estate in Manhatten. Today’s the day you take possession and the future is all yours. The year ahead is clear of bush and rocks providing you with flat fertile soil for the planter and a pristine plot for the builder.

Your years before today have bought the land. The time in your pocket and wrinkles on your brow have decided the purpose of the plan. This is a year to transform dreams to blueprints so that the sand of time become concrete for tomorrow. Its definitely a change of mind that can take the same ingredients and decide whether flour and water produces cookies or glue. So what do you plan to do with your next 365 days that we wrap up and call 2013? Have you already written it off as ‘just another year’ or do you plan to fix it on day one with a two line resolution posted to Facebook and call it quits?

“Your Merry Christmas may depend on what others do for you … but your Happy New Year depends on what you do for others.”
 – Unknown

The truth is that like any farmer taking that field and planting for a his bumper crop, you will have seasons and strategy to get the right result. For the builder, an architect helps coordinate a plan, the project or site manager arranges the contractors and there will be a master builder making sure the structure is plumb and true to be a lasting legacy for a family or owner. So start thinking about it and writing down the steps that you can see being the process of your future.

One line doesn’t make a novel so be willing to write the chapters that will set the plot, introduce the characters, create the suspense and celebrate the finish. Pour your heart into this dream but make sure it has substance by committing it to paper. A New Year’s resolution is only a pithy statement lost in the dust of one month’s days. Instead be willing to record a travel diary of what happens by journalling your way through the year and making notes, ideas and comments about the sights seen and experiences absorbed.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

A key to any building project is to start with a fresh approach. Be willing to walk on to the site with clean sharp tools. Leave the past behind and instead walk out of a period of preparation with new vigor, a strong stance and refreshed body and spirit. Have a look at some of the old attitudes and jaded ideas and ask yourself this question; “If they didn’t work last year, what makes me think they will work in the next?” It should be a wake-up to the old adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Don’t be tied down by stakes of dispair and bitterness. Those roots should be removed from your field or building site. They don’t provide foundations, instead they’re a barrier to growth and a stumbling block for your tools.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

One of the benefits of a fresh field is you can plow it anyway you like, until you plant in it. On a new building plot you can align the floorplan in any direction it fits until the foundations go down. Be willing to step into a new paradigm and do things in a way you’ve never tried before. Innovation breeds creativity while survival can grow success from seeds of desperation. Get some sleep to allow the brain to be clear and the heart settled. Clear the heart and physical hoarding areas of your life so that you don’t have distractions, obstacles or the trophies of past hurt and failure haunting you. Instead of being slowed down considering the past, replace those memories on the wall with grander plans of the dreams to be built, the places to travel and victories to be won.

If you plan to conquer Everest,
hoist a Flag not a Tea-towel.
– a Pitchford Passing Thought

The purpose of building is to learn through the process so that each structure that comes after it is grander, sturdier and more suited to its purpose than the last. In doing so you move from apprentice to builder and then on from being someone who builds from plans to someone who creates from dreams. As we look at the next year, its an opportunity to learn, to love and to live. The next twelve months aren’t an end in themselves. If your ‘building’ or ‘crop’ project takes one, two or five years to create, then go the distance. Be willing to journey through  and face the future with a glint not a glare.

Have a healthy sparkle of optimism knowing that even if a storm delays your planting or  the rain stops you putting the proverbial roof on your plan, that still you have a dream written down, a journal of memories accumulated and a host of friends who shared your journey. Take a look at the future and see its freshness, the morning dew on your opportunity and feel the crispness in the air that calls out to you like a morning bird call saying “Your time is now”!

Here’s a toast to the future, A toast to the past, And a toast to our friends, far and near. May the future be pleasant; The past a bright dream; May our friends remain faithful and dear.
– Irish Toast (by Anonymous)

At the close of 2011 I wrote about looking at the year through a rear vision mirror. Like a skipper, the navigation through life is best done by knowing where your starting marker is. While our trail of experience gives us the strength, wisdom and hopefully a greater sense of gratefulness, we won’t have momentum for the future unless our eyes are facing straight ahead, lifted to the horizon and looking for land.

Thank you for reading this post. It means a lot. Please click on the options on the side to share it in places like Facebook and Twitter. I read ll the comments so please write your thoughts below and I will respond.

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Observations

Things that should be said

Things that should be said

Things that should be said

There are many things I'd like to say
and there are many things I could
But if all I do is say them
then I guess I never should

You see words without meaning are like
flowers without their petals
or morning without its dew
like a puppy without its soft wet tongue
or me without my you.

I know that I don't own you
You've given that honour to the Lord
All I want is to be your friend
then I can love you to the end

My heart has turned full circle
and twisted like a rung out cloth
Tears fall like rung out water
as I come to face my fear of loss

I've let you down and this you know
but now I lift you up to show
You are my love I'm not ashamed
I'm proud because you bear my name

Your smile has always brought me joy
It helps me remember life's to enjoy
To God I lift my song of praise
Your beauty is defined, there is no more

You've dedicated yourself to Abbey and me
Our little family at this time only three
But I feel it is my turn to make a stand
I love you, I need you, I care for you
Please hold my hand.

Love Andrew

Author: Andrew Pitchford
Written: 1992

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Observations

Written for the One I Love

The One I Love

Written for the One I Love

When darkness fades
And glory shines you open your eyes and hope to find

A starling on your pillow
A valentine in your arms who nestles cheek to breast

You alight from bed to floor
Going to prepare a succulent feast as you tiptoe out the door

Content, refreshed and showered
From the house you leave with love you cleave to crack the open sky

Find a spot, a secluded one
Walk hand in hand alond silk golden sands and learn to dream

Cleanse your soles together
On salty shores reveal your souls to heavens soouthing balm

Talk becomes priceless time
When sipped between friends as a sweet chilled wine

Trust and open "Pandora's Box"
This woven basket of picnic pieces satisfies the prevalent appetite

Singing waters beckon bathers
to soak embracing all of natures reviving good cheer

Stroke the passioned stallion's mane
You fire his heart a firebox of embers, nostrils race with steam

Should one be one alone
No let them come intertwined as love's evergrowing vine

All money spent is lost
when trying to win your love my motives must be clear

The precious memories held
Will note be bought to corrode in life and bring us fear

Today we built a friendship
Intimate in detail, purest of materials, loved in conception and still real!

Author: Andrew Pitchford

Written for Cheryl for Valentines Day 1991. We won a bottle of wine when this was submitted to the local paper, the Te Awamutu Courier when they ran a Valentine Day's competition.

 

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Observations

Spending Dad’s Cash

A Trooper in the air

;Creative Commons License ;Photo Credit: Kristina Alexanderson via Compfight

I still remember looking at my Dad's collection of LPs (old speak for MP3 embedded on black plastic dinner plates) and thinking I wonder if I can have these when he dies. It’s a strange feeling thinking your parents are really old and wondering if they will 'leave' you anything in their will. My Dad has now sold all those LPs. A few upgrades that included golf clubs and now a growing CD collection have meant that incredible collection of Elvis records along with a few Charlies like Charlie Rich and Charlie Pride will never be mine.

That little confessional story from my childhood also shows the short-sighted nature of selfishness. Even at a young age I was looking at 'whats in it for me'. As we grow we face new choices just like the Prodigal Son that Jesus spoke about in Luke 15. The bottom line was he wanted to spend his Dad's cash before he'd even earned his own. There always seems to be a pinch of laziness that seasons a life of greed.

The youngest son wanted to live it up and felt the Dad owed him. It took quite a journey for him to learn the lessons he needed to face life with a different perspective. Become a kid again for 4min and watch this video. Don't be so focussed on the son that you don't catch some great lessons from the Father and the older brother. In fact the older brother's biggest challenge was his focus on being… wait a minute I'm telling the story when I should let Crossroads tell the tale.

I really couldn't resist this video on the "Prodigal Son" from the Crossroads Kid's Club. Their range of videos available via their Vimeo account is brilliant as a resource for Sunday School teachers and Religious Education teachers. If you enjoy the video why not leave a comment on their Vimeo page by clicking through or heading to their website at Crossroads.

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Media

Movie Review: Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax

The Lorax

Mary Poppins said a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. With the Lorax the 3D animation experience is coated in syrup, sprinkled in hundreds and thousands and covered in orange candy floss. The experience was fun, immersive and thought provoking. It’s amazing to see how the on screen interpretations of the very simple yet iconic 2D illustrations from the Dr Seuss books have developed over the last few years. We remember the first live action movie that came through the mastery of Ron Howard and Jim Carrey when “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” arrived in cinemas in 2000. Now with the enhanced development of computer animation the cartoons really do ‘live’ on screen.

The 1971 book by Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) focussed on saving the environment and forty years later the same message is more topical than ever through society. The cute factor is always a great endearing character to bring in a serious message. The use of fluffy funny teddy bears and ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ singing fish is a great backdrop amongst the forests of zebra trunked candy floss shedding trees. The quality of animation of all aspects of people, animals and objects is so brilliant you do want to reach out and hug the screen.

The story for Seuss noobs surrounds a young man called Once-ler (Ed Helms) making his way in the world to the comic relief of his family. He sets out and discovers the Truffula trees that will give him the material for his famous Thneeds. This one size fits all device sells like mad and the crowds want more. More Thneeds means less trees and the environment pays a heavy price. So what to do with the predicament for the environment? Enter the Dr Seuss version of Jiminy Cricket, the Lorax, a humble bundle of fluff who rides in on a storm and leaves by the seat of his pants, literally. Danny DeVito is an inspired choice for the voice of the Lorax and brings just the right amount of charm and some whimsical sarcasm for flavour.

Once the backstory is told we enter the modern day and meet Ted (Zac Efron) as he stumbles through early puppy love over the artistic Audrey (Taylor Swift). The flowing red locks and sparkly voice are a magnet for this relationship but how to win her heart. Ted finds out that in their community no one knows what a tree is. They embrace artificial trees with disco lights and suck on bottles of produced air but the idea of nature is long lost to the monopoly of big business. But here Ted finds a shared dream when Audrey says she will marry the man who produces a real tree.

Setting off on his motor-unicycled journey takes Ted out of the glass bubble of his world to seek out a Truffula tree in the vast darkness of harvested fields long forgotten. When he finds his way to the house of the Once-ler the encounter inspires young Ted and puts him at odds with a newly introduced character, the “Air Mogul” O’Hare played superbly by Rob Riggle. The battle ensues for the last Truffula Tree seed and a case for growth and photo-synthesis will eventually win the day. It’s an enjoyable ride and worth the weird, the wacky and the familiar. In amongst the key characters watch for Ted’s Grandma played by Betty White and initially you may be forgiven for thinking Ted’s Mum is the ‘Nanny’, Fran Drescher but it’s actually Jenny Slate.

When the people who brought you Despicable Me say they want to bring Dr Seuss to a new audience you can take them seriously with both the message and the vehicle. Despicable Me’s Director Chris Renaud returned to the camera on this one and did an amazing job with this seriously funny film. This should give more than a pinch of delight to those who have just found out he will be delivering us Despicable Me 2 in 2013.

Probably one of the best cartoon 3D movie experiences I have enjoyed where the landscape and action pieces all have the right depth of story and imagery to immerse you in the message of the Lorax.

4 out of 5 popcorns

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Movie Review: We Bought a Zoo

Movie Review - We Bought a Zoo

I’m ecstatic, gutted and elated from this movie that played me like a banjo, plucking heart strings at will. In the last month I have been challenged as a Dad by two movies that might slip under your radar as you keep a hand on the wheel of life steering through Christmas. First there was “Courageous” from the Kendrick brothers and now the real life adaption of Benjamin Mee’s life in “We Bought a Zoo”.

This for me is the family movie of the year and you will not regret seeing it. I had the privilege of seeing the preview screening for this review and we weren’t too far into the movie when my wife said, “We have to bring the kids”. And then a little later, “We have to get this on DVD for home”.

While the movie’s key actors and accents give you a sense you’re in country America, the real story eminated from Plymouth, England where the tale of Benjamin Mee’s family buying and renovating the Dartmoor Zoo became a Guardian newspaper story in 2007. You can read the real background story here. The onscreen version of ‘Rosemoor Zoo’ reads differently to the script but with its own drama helps you understand where the motivation for the movie first began. I think Benjamin Mee’s own book will be on a few shopping lists for the New Year.

Now let’s step into the movie and Benjamin Mee’s (Matt Damon) shoes as Writer and Director, Cameron Crowe introduces you to the single dad raising the precocious 7yo Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and 14yo Dylan (Colin Ford), a simmering young man asking ‘Why?’ He has good reason. The Mother they adored has died six months earlier. Their adventurer and writer Dad has hit the writers block equivalent of stalling the engine on life and there is a month’s worth of lasagne in the fridge from the do-gooders who simply don’t get it.

Matt Damon’s character shows a good man who wants to get a fresh start away from the coffee shops of the village life that remind him of his wife. He wants to remember and forget and thats about the size of it. After looking for a new home he stumbles across a complicated purchase that sees him taking on responisbility for a 33 acre zoo with eight staff and numerous species of animals. To make a profit he has to open in time for the holiday season. But that isn’t going to happen until he learns to jump through some new hoops to meet the animal welfare inspector’s electric rule.

Scarlett Johansson steps on the scene as Kelly Foster the Zoo Keeper. Untrained but passionate she leads the remnant of staff to rally behind Mee in his bid to make deadlines, overcome escaped animals and pick up by holding the hand of a man needing direction. Its a great script that give enough of a romance edge to keep the story flowing while paying respect to a beautiful marriage and a family missing a key part of the jigsaw puzzle they once saw as a picture complete.

Being a Dad is the most rewarding role on the planet but lets not pretend being a father is easy. Its hard work with sometimes unseen results. Many times I don’t get it right and lets be honest the landscape for fatherhood has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. When I grew up there was one or two TV channels to review and filter and now we want to teach our kids about life before its delivered wrapped in a browser and called ‘online’. Some things we teach our kids through values but there are some lessons that come through experience. Losng a loved one and living a marriage are two of those examples. While Benjamin Mee has to find his own way one of the most engaging, heart wrenching scenes is when Father and Son come to grips with hurt and honesty and let it out. The clean slate is a platform for rebuilding and the story has a sense of rebirth from this point.

One of the memorable quotes comes from Damon’s character as he tells on screen son Dylan how to ‘get the girl’. Its a quote that Mee got from his brother when he was young and he passes it on saying;

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

Cameron Crowe has brought us some of the great passion and intensity that I adored in Jerry Maguire. The script is superbly paced and keeps this family drama in sync with reality while threading some great sub-plots and comedy to the story.

Hollywood has faced some challenges in the last ten years. For some reason we’ve run out of stories for the next script in the sausage machine and the only way we extend a budget is by asking for 48 seconds of extra CGi time. It becomes a sad reflection that our movies are filled with reboots and prequels followed by tech wizardry with a dash of CGi befuddlement.

The real way forward is to invest in great writers. Let’s tell the stories of life and write words that define the arena of dreams. I can’t speak highly enough of ‘We Bought a Zoo’. Its the life of Benjamin Mee, Father and Zoo Owner told by master story teller, Cameron Crowe. Great writing inspires great lives. When I walked out of the theatre I quickly fired off a tweet;

@cameroncrowe thanks for an awesome movie experience. Life is full of joy and pain. 20 seconds of insane courage is required. #WeBoughtaZoo

Some movies inspire a moment I hope ‘We Bought a Zoo’ will inspire a life.

4 out of 5 popcorns

Categories
Observations

Definition: Rugby League

Love this spur of the moment comment from our daughter while watching a previous State of Origin Rugby League match.

“Long socks, short shorts, it’s just wrong!”