I hadn’t tried to take Annie to the movies for about six months – not since the Finding Nemo debacle – so you can imagine my surprise when she asked me out of nowhere if we could go see a movie. I was a little nervous about how things would go considering our last trip, but everything went great: she sat still and wore the 3D glasses the whole time, laughed her little head off, and even thanked me for taking her on the way home. Too cute, right? But here’s the thing… I’m not sure how much of the movie she actually understood.

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“Look, Dad! I’m wearing the glasses!”

The movie, Escape From Planet Earth, was very little kid friendly, but it did have some elements about aliens, Area 51, and the government that undoubtedly went over her head. Later, when I asked her what the movie was about, she had a hard time answering, but she had no problem telling me about her favorite parts – when “Gary got a forehead” (that’s Annie-speak for a brain freeze) and “when they got married.” So while her grasp of plot may be a little iffy, it’s clear that things she can personally relate to, like brain freezes (our ice cream fanatic has had more than her share) and weddings (her recent obsession), really speak to her.

If plot is tough for little kids to grasp, you can forget about sub-text or theme. Last weekend we watched Wreck-It Ralph, and at the end I asked her what her favorite part was.

“When Vanellope became a princess!”

If you haven’t seen the movie, Vanellope is a tomboy-ish little girl who turns into a princess at the end, then rejects being a princess in order to stay true to her tomboy self.

“But after she became a princess she decided that wasn’t who she was, remember?” I said. “That’s why she went back to dressing the way she did before, because that was the real Vanellope.”

Annie just stared at me with a blank expression.

“Never mind,” I said. “I liked it when she turned into a princess, too.”

Annie smiled. “Princess Vanellope! Yay!”

We had a similar experience after watching the movie Enchanted. We were “playing Giselle” (basically where we role play the movie), and Annie kept talking about how much Giselle loved Prince Edward (the James Marsden character).

“Well,” I said, opening my big, stupid mouth again. “In the end she finds that she doesn’t love the prince, that she’s actually in love with Robert (Patrick Dempsey).”

Annie whipped her head toward me, horrified. “The…Daddy?”

(Clearly, the thought of a princess liking a daddy that way is inconceivable.)

Kids see movies a lot differently than we do, but I’m okay with that so long as Annie continues to like going to the movies with her old man. And, in time, she will develop an understanding of things like plot and theme. In fact, she’s already started to ask a LOT of questions during movies (“Who’s that?” “Why’d he say that?” Where’d she go?”), which shows me she’s trying to piece things together. Here’s hoping she figures it out sooner rather than later… I’m still looking for someone to explain Cloud Atlas to me.

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