- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2003

No laughs alone

“The ‘Home Alone’ movies have been so popular that there are now four in the series starring Macaulay Culkin as a highly inventive 8-year-old who constantly gets into mischief when he is accidentally left behind as his parents race off on an international vacation. The implausible and predictable plot of the original movie — where the boy sleds down the stairs, cruises down the supermarket aisles and sets up booby-traps to catch burglars — was designed to appeal to pre-teens and they find it hilarious.

“But the movie character’s antics have little resemblance to the situation described in a research brief just released from Child Trends titled, ‘Left Unsupervised: A Look at the Most Vulnerable Children.’ … [C]hildren under 13 who are left to their own devices tend to watch television and play video games, and in general, let their minds vegetate. … Day after day, alone in an empty house, they also experience isolation and loneliness. …

“Delinquent behaviors such as cigarette, alcohol, and drug use are common among unsupervised teens, as are other risky behaviors. …

“So, while the movie version of ‘home alone’ has plenty of laughs, there’s not much hilarity in the lonely reality of latchkey kids left to fend for themselves after school every afternoon.”

Janice Shaw Crouse, writing on “Home Alone Without the Hilarity,” in the Beverly LaHaye Institute’s Dot.Commentary

For the children

“Homeschooling can be called the most important American folk movement … of the last 20 years, but the process seems to be little understood in Europe. Most non-American observers worry that the children will be too sheltered or isolated. In fact, survey after survey shows homeschooled students to be — on average — more involved in group activities than their counterparts in state schools. And the educational results are impressive. In grades one through four, according to a University of Maryland study, median test scores for homeschooled children are a full grade above those of public and private school students. …

“The more important traits of homeschooling may be the social and familial. Over 97 percent of homeschool students have parents who are married, compared to a 72 percent figure nationwide. Sixty-two percent of homeschooling families have three or more children, compared to only 20 percent of the nationwide sample. A full third (33.5) percent of homeschooling families actually have four or more children, compared to but 6 percent nationwide.”

Allan Carlson, in a Feb. 19 presentation to the Swedish Parliament, reprinted in the April issue of the Family in America

Silly cinema

“When the spellbindingly schmaltzy ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ unexpectedly became the most successful romantic comedy in history, I thought it might be time to surrender my passport and move elsewhere. …

“In the past year or so, a large segment of the American public (mostly women) have made it clear that whatever Vin Diesel, DMX or Bruce Willis are selling, they’re not buying. Again and again, drab, formulaic comedies have been released to almost universal derision from critics, and again and again these films have been smash hits at the box office. ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ a generic rehash of a dozen other films, was a major hit, despite a flimsy plot, a telegraphed finale and a no-name supporting cast. ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,’ a film so icky … that no red-blooded male could sit through it, got hammered by the press yet cleared $100 million in a matter of weeks. …

“Not to put too fine a point on it: Things are bad. First the stock market collapsed. Then Osama bin Laden declared war on America. … With death, famine, pestilence and plague lurking around every corner, it is really all that surprising that people are going to see silly movies?”

Joe Queenan, writing on “Bulletproof Twaddle,” in the May-June issue of Hollywood Life

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