A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 1974 film deals with issues that were boundary-pushing at the time -- including gender roles, awareness and expression of feelings, ups and downs of sibling relationships, working mothers, racial stereotyping, and more. Even though society has since embraced most of the values the film conveys, the message may seem heavy-handed and obvious. Still, its cleverness, originality, and fun prove to be of lasting value.
What's the story?
In a series of songs and sketches that use hand puppets, a variety of animation styles, dance, live action chats with kids, and even the crayon drawings of the very young, Marlo Thomas and a like-minded group of talented celebrities (including Roosey Grier, a mountain of a man who sings "It's All Right to Cry," Mel Brooks as a newborn baby, Michael Jackson singing and dancing with Roberta Flack, and many more) earnestly introduce kids to what in 1974 were new ways of looking at the world around them. In FREE TO BE YOU AND ME -- a TV special created after the enormous success of the album it was based on -- girls can grow up to be anything they want, boys can cry if they want to (even play with dolls without fear of derision), parents are people, friends are irreplaceable, siblings are both annoying and lovable, and the world is color blind.
Is it any good?
Free to Be You and Me is dated, insofar as the ideas it expresses are no longer cutting-edge. Still, that doesn't lessen the sheer delight of watching some of Hollywood's most bankable stars of the recent past show off their considerable talents in a project that's funny, heartfelt, inventive, and highly entertaining. The songs are memorable, the children interviewed are irresistible, and those who were kids in the '70s and '80s will be delighted to share this wonderful film with their own families. Sometimes it's a treat to revisit old favorites. This is one of those times.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's effort to get away from stereotyping. The filmmakers wanted to show that boys and girls are different and yet still have many of the same feelings and goals. Which of the stories or songs helped clarify this concept for you?
Atalanta wanted very much to show her father that she could make her own decisions. How did she convince him? What are some positive things you do to try to help your parents understand how you feel?
The babies in this film are often very wise even though they were just born. "Irony" often makes us laugh when what we're expecting turns out to be something else. Talk about the irony of the baby scenes. How do the voices, ideas, and puppetry help make these sketches so entertaining?
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