Kennedy: Three fine films for fickle teen boys

Photo by Seth Johnson/Roadside Attractions and Armory Films /Zack Gottsagen, left, and Shia LaBeouf in "The Peanut Butter Falcon."

"Who wants to watch a movie?" our 14-year-old son chirped last week.

Holy moly. This was shocking.

You see, our sons, ages 14 and 19, are not regular movie watchers. They were weened on YouTube, which caused their attention spans to shrink to a hiccup.

Sitting still for 90 to 120 minutes to watch a theatrical film is usually a nonstarter. They would much rather watch streaming images of somebody else playing a video game - I know, crazy - or a DIY video on how to build a coffee table.

As young boys, they did not pass through the Star Wars, Spider-Man or Harry Potter phases like some children. For them, movies are an acquired taste, like blue cheese or anchovies.

I recently decided to stop asking them to watch films with me. Their typical hard "no" had begun to hurt my feelings.

So, when our younger son announced last week that he was ready to watch a movie, I almost fell out of my recliner. My next thought was, "Is this a bribe?" It is, after all, that time of year when boys submit their Christmas wish lists, and this was a good way to butter up dad.

Still, I didn't have to think twice about a suggestion.

"Let's watch 'Peanut Butter Falcon,'" I said, grabbing the TV remote.

If any of you parents, or grandparents, out there are experiencing a similar situation, here's my handy-dandy guide to three can't-miss boy movies. (Sorry, I don't have a special list for girls.)

"Peanut Butter Falcon": With echoes of Huckleberry Finn, this 1999 independent film tells the story of young man named Zak with Down syndrome (Zack Gottsagen), who escapes from a nursing home with the help of his elderly roommate, played by Bruce Dern.

Zak befriends a ne'er-do-well fisherman named Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), and after some fits and starts they set out to fulfill Zak's dream of tracking down his wrestling idol, The Saltwater Redneck. Zak wants to learn to be a professional wrestler.

Zak and Tyler are both adrift, figuratively and literally (they build a sailboat out of scrap wood), but they find friendship, and even a semblance of family, while on the journey together. Eleanor, a social worker played by Dakota Johnson, provides emotional ballast for this funny/poignant adventure story.

"Stand by Me": This classic coming-of-age film, based on a Stephen King novella, was made in 1986 about events in 1959 but still feels contemporary. Featuring such then-child actors such as Corey Feldman and River Phoenix, the ensemble cast of boys bonds by busting one another's chops.

The band of friends sets off through the countryside to find a dead body. Two scenes in particular land with great resonance in boy brains. One involves racing across a bridge to avoid an oncoming train. Another memorable scene is a story within a story about a pie-eating contest.

Most of King's work is in the horror genre, but "Stand by Me" (directed by Rob Reiner) is a timeless movie, despite its World War II references and late 1950s musical score. If you can share only one movie with your favorite adolescent boy, make it "Stand by Me."

"Ford vs. Ferrari": As the title of this 2019 film implies, this is a car movie - maybe the best car movie every made. A fair number of young men will perk up with the mere mention of the Ferrari brand. If you tell them that this movie is about the time the American carmaker Ford geared up to challenge Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, they may sit still for a sample.

Even though the movie is set in 1966, it has some of the best racing scenes ever filmed. Its 92% positive rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website is also a plus. Matt Damon as car designer Carroll Shelby, and Christian Bale, cast as race-car driver Ken Miles, turn in memorable performances.

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photo Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo