Summer Shorts
The Little Mermaid:  Ariel’s Beginning”:  Actually a prequel, where Ariel is a young mermaid princess, growing up with her sisters and a very happy Mom and Dad.  But Mom dies, and the King, once jovial, turns sour.  He bans music from the underwater kingdom.  He insists that all his daughters line up for inspection every day, so he can greet them formally before attending to his rigorous duties of being royalty.  (Yes, echoing “The Sound Of Music” until Maria arrives.)  Their Nanny, Marina (the voice of Sally Fields), almost steals the show as the grumpy, ambitious, duplicitous back stabber.  But Jodi Benson again lends her resonant voice to the role of Ariel, and her conflict with King Triton (Jim Cummings) and her new friendship with Flounder (Parker Goris) leads her to an underground music club, where she rediscovers her joy.  The Greatly Depressed King, at first incensed that anybody would actually enjoy themselves, eventually relents and repeals the Prohibition, causing a singing, dancing celebration that sets us up for….the original Little Mermaid.  Predestined to be viewed by many small children.
Pineapple Express”:  This one needs to be kept out of the reach of children of any age.  Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) is a process server who smokes weed on the job, meaning pretty much constantly.  Drifting toward middle age with no goals or direction, he’s an inveterate slacker, and is unreasonably proud of having a high school girlfriend.  He accidentally witnesses a cop and an accomplice murdering someone, and now they’re after him and his dealer, Saul (James Franco).  After putting his girlfriend and her family at risk, as well as Saul’s supplier, Dale and Saul spend the rest of the movie running from everyone, getting stoned, and trying to keep a low profile.  But somewhere in the middle, the raunchy comedy morphs into something more resembling standard drama:  fisticuffs, chase scenes, car crashes, gunfights.  Then it takes another strange turn and winds up as a buddy movie, where the slackers get sappy and sentimental with each other about how meaningful their relationships are.  Weird all the way around. Even small children are trash-mouthed. 
Swing Vote”:  You get some trash-mouth here, too, but at least he’s trying to turn his life around.  Kevin Costner plays Bud Johnson, a beer-guzzling, middle-aged good-ol-boy who lives in a trailer with his pre-teen daughter because her mother ran out on them.  Ten-year-old Molly (Madeline Carroll) has taken over the role of responsible parent, including trying to vote for her Dad when he was in one of his stupors.  The machine malfunctioned, and through a strange twist of events, his vote is the one that will decide the Presidential election.  So, in the predictable media circus, he is courted by both the incumbent President and his opponent, and our anonymous hick suddenly becomes an instant celebrity.  At first he kinda likes the attention, but then slowly begins to realize the responsibility he has, and actually starts listening to people talk about the issues.  Definitely a “message movie” for a country preparing for a national election, but Carroll keeps it from being too syrupy, and Costner delivers a very believable performance in an unlikely scenario.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2”:  Here, we’re not at all afraid of syrupy, or mad, sad, frustrated, elated, depressed, resentful, jealous, vindictive, sassy, aloof, or just about any emotion you can identify, we’ll try it on.  Along with the special pair of jeans that is supposed to exactly fit four very different-looking girls: Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), Lena (Alexis Bledel), Carmen (America Ferrera), and Bridget (Blake Lively).  In this sequel, the teenagers are now college-age, having romances, pursuing different interests, and trying to keep up with each other and their friendship.  This movie tries on so many emotions that some work better than others.  As in a traditional “chick flick,” the male characters are secondary at best, but at least they aren’t all scoundrels.  It’s just not about them.
Questions For Discussion:
1)      How important is music in your life?  In your worship?
2)      How important is it for you to vote?  Can you remember every Presidential vote you ever cast?
3)      How important is it to have goals for your life?
4)      How important is it to maintain relationships with old friends?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas