What do obscure Elizabethan poetry, a superstar drag queen, and the music of The Go-Go’s have in common? At first glance, not a damn thing. Yet when these elements are combined in the new Broadway musical Head Over Heels, the result is a wacky, heartwarming explosion of fun.
A BIT OF BACK STORY
My connection to this musical is multi-layered, and probably not very fascinating to anyone but me — but I’m going to tell you about it anyway. I was attending Dad 2.0 Summit (as I do every year), where I met that rarest and most fabulous of creatures, a fellow gay dad blogger. I thought I knew them all, so was excited to make the acquaintance of Mr. Gavin Lodge. In addition to being a father, a husband and a blogger, Gavin mentioned that he was an actor and that he’d been cast as a standby in a new Broadway musical. My interest was peaked.
He described the show’s story as taken from an obscure, Elizabethan text, and would be performed largely in iambic pentameter. (!) He told me it was called Head Over Heels, and would feature the music of The Go-Go’s. (!!) He said it would also include the first trans actor to originate a role on Broadway. (!!!) I texted Papa about the show and that it would be in previews in New York starting in June and that we were going to get tickets. It was not a question.
Movie: Teen Titans GO! to the Movies (PG, 1 hour, 33 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy, Jon (8)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★★1/2, Jon ★★★★★
Plot Snapshot: The Teen Titans jump from the small to the big screen, literally…-ish. Bummed they’re the only superheroes NOT having a movie made about them, the team (Robin, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy) sets off to prove themselves worthy by acquiring an arch nemesis. Intrigue, time travel and fart jokes ensue — culminating with an epic, world-shattering battle. And also messages about friendship and teamwork.
“Big, stylish dad” isn’t a phrase you hear a lot. Dads in general get a bad rap for being devoid of any fashion sense beyond cargo shorts and sports gear. And if you’re size XXL or above, you’re hard pressed to find clothes or shoes that aren’t bland or tacky.
Nevertheless, I persist in incorporating my designer style into my plus-sized dad wardrobe. It takes a good deal of creativity, and more than a little luck.
Recently I was lucky enough try out some shoes from Jambu. I’d not heard of them before, but liked what I saw of their men’s collection. Looking ahead to warmer weather, I decided on their Zion sneakers.
When I became a father, my priorities changed. I no longer had the time nor opportunity to do many of the things I deemed important pre-dadhood. Among those were sleep, basic hygiene, and wearing a watch.
I initially started going watchless* to keep from scratching my newborn when feeding and changing him. However, it quickly became more about protecting my timepieces from all of the pee, poo, barf, jelly, juice, snot, dirt and the myriad other substances that go hand-in-grubby-hand with childhood. As someone who goes by “Designer Daddy,” you can imagine this was quite a blow to my semi-stylish sensibilities.
Nowadays we’re past the diapers and puking (mostly), and my 7-year-old can hold his own juice and wipe his own butt (mostly) — so I’ve slowly been rebuilding my collection. But with so many other things vying for my attention, how does a dad find time to be fashionable?
Does choosing the right family car drive you crazy? Do you get confused having to shift gears between comfort, affordability and style? Does the entire process cause your brain to stall out? Do you ever tire of car puns?
Recently I was invited to the Kelley Blue Book headquarters in California, as part of an elite squad of “experts” — the KBB Dads! Our mission: choose the NUMBER ONE BEST CAR FOR DADS OF ALL TIME! Well, for 2016 at least.
Movie: Pete’s Dragon (PG, 95 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (47), Jon (6-3/4)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★★★, Jon ★★★★★
Family Favorites: Star Wars (episodes IV-VII), Ghostbusters (all versions), Despicable Me
Plot Snapshot: For years, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales…until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley). Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliott. Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon.
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[The remainder of this review contains mild spoilers.]
Disney’s new remake of Pete’s Dragon is a truly enchanting experience, and a welcome improvement on the rather dated original. Directed by David Lowery and filmed entirely in New Zealand, the movie is at its most magical when it’s just boy and dragon. Fuzzy, purring Elliott acts as both loyal pet and doting parent to Mowgli-esque Pete. And while I rarely think 3D is justifiable, the flight scenes alone make it well worth the extra cost.
If you’re looking for affordable family fun, look no further than Philadelphia. Our family got to spend four days with our up-the-coast neighbor; however, the first two were just me and my 6-year-old — a challenge I wasn’t sure I was prepared for. Under normal circumstances, my adventurously independent son is a handful. Now we were sans one dad, adding a train ride, a hotel stay, and a bunch of activities in a city I knew next to nothing about. Papa and I had spent an anniversary weekend years ago, focusing mainly on art museums and antiques. I knew my kiddo was having none of that, so we were in uncharted territory.
It’s also important to note that Jon was not as over the previous week’s stomach bug as I thought.
Known as the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia has plenty of affection for families and kids, too. We made it through the trip with lots of flying colors, great memories, and even learned a few things. And yes, there were lots and lots of trips to the bathroom.
Here are our five Philadelphia favorites — along with a score for the restrooms at each location, based on their ability to accommodate weary, middle-aged dads and a kindergartner whose bowels were constantly at DEFCON #2.
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5. THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE
The initial draw of The Franklin Institute was the Art of the Brick exhibit — which did not disappoint. Yet on further exploration, the entire museum was amaze-balls, as the kids say. From the giant interactive heart, to the train factory, a planetarium, and pretty much any invention or sciencey thing you can think up — it had it all.
Movie: Kung Fu Panda 3 (PG, 95 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (46), Papa (48), Jon (6)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★★, Papa ★★★1/2, Jon ★★★★★
Family Favorites: Star Wars (episodes IV-VII), Big Hero 6, Ghostbusters
Daddy & Papa’s Favorites: The Matrix, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Plot Snapshot: Po is living large as the hero of his village, content to “fight monsters and get high-fives from bunnies.” Two challenges soon arise to rock Po’s world: the supernatural villain Kai, who is stealing the chi of China’s kung fu masters; and the appearance of Li Shan, his long-lost biological father.
Po and Li Shan travel to a hidden village where Po meets scores of other pandas, reconnecting with his inner dumpling-eating, hill-rolling, oversleeping self. But Kai is on the hunt for our hero, so Po must train his new panda posse into fierce warriors in order to battle the otherworldly foe.
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[The remainder of this review contains plot spoilers.]
As an adoptive parent, I’ve always been interested in how movies like the Kung Fu Panda series handle the topic of adoption. I was particularly curious about Kung Fu Panda 3, as it introduces Po’s birthfather into the story. This is something more and more adoptive families can relate to, as open adoption is increasingly the norm.
I went into the film with some concerns about how they would treat the dynamic between Mr. Ping (the goose who raised Po) and his biological father. I was half-expecting a bait-and-switch, perhaps revealing Li Shan was not in fact Po’s father; or maybe Po having to choose between one family or the other.
Yet the moviemakers did a good job of resolving the family-related conflicts — which were almost entirely between the two parents, not Po.
Adoptive dad Mr. Ping seemed to struggle more with this new family dynamic — his protectiveness, mistrust, and competitiveness on full display. While I appreciated the honesty with which they portrayed these understandable (and familiar) emotions, I was glad they didn’t roost there, which might have caused some adopted kids or their parents to feel uncomfortable. However, I thought that within the confines of a 90-minute kids’ movie, they evolved the characters quite nicely.
My son’s transition to kindergarten has been more difficult than I’d anticipated. He finished preschool a confident, friendly, and bright young boy. I figured he’d just stroll into kinder (as the cool kids call it), turn on the charm, and settle right in.
Yet the first couple of months have been a roller coaster of emotions, for both of us. There are certainly plenty of good days, but also more bad than I’d hoped. The days — both good and bad — are long, a strain on his young mind and body.
My first inclination at pickup is to ask about his day…and if I sense something is amiss, to dig deeper, set it right, and dole out a life lesson on the spot. But often these attempts are met with blank stares from the weary 5-year-old in my back seat.
So when — and how — do I do my digging, setting, and doling? How do I discover what’s going on inside his scruffy little head, so I can then fill it back up with all the good stuff I want to share with him?
Whenever I hear about a new show or film combining one thing with another (killer robot monkeys, alien zombie bunnies, Sharknado), I automatically think of the scene in the movie Big where Tom Hanks (possessed by his younger self) sits in on a pitch meeting at a toy company. After examining a proposed toy, created entirely from market research, younger self Tom offers this critique:
“It turns from a building into a robot, right?
Well, what’s fun about that?”
You can’t just rip off a good idea, tweak it slightly, and automatically expect it to work. It’s obvious when “grownups” are just trying to capitalize on a trend, and when a kid (or a kid at heart) creates something truly inventive — their passion and inspiration clearly shines through.
Such is the case with Dinotrux, a new series on Netflix that successfully re-imagines the “mash-up” genre into something fun and exciting for kids and families. Based on Chris Gall’s series of children’s books, Dinotrux smooshes together dinosaurs and construction vehicles, as well as several Reptools (reptiles + tools). It’s kind of hard to believe no one had done this before!