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Week In Review

The 168 Turnaround: Kids Suck

THIS WEEK: Nov. 27 – Dec. 3, 2011

The Week At Large
I enjoy singing.  I’m not saying that I’m especially good at it, but I do get a kick out of doing it.  And I’ll go one further—I also enjoy being sung to.  And so I’m tickled to learn that Western Union is planning to revive the singing telegram with a campaign that features the vocal talents of K’naan, Snoop Dogg, Timbaland, and Indian singer Sunidhi Chauhan.  No, K’naan won’t show up at your house; it’s a more digital approach to singing telegrams.  And, hey, since we’re in a good mood, did you hear that Lady Gaga recently bared all for Vanity Fair and … well, Tony Bennett.  Is it art, or is it just a picture of boobs?  I’m not sure.  If nothing else, it’s certainly curious.  And even if you men did think naked Gaga is sexy, I sure hope you weren’t checking out her pictures with your laptop on your lap.  A recent study found that the electromagnetic radiation from the Wi-Fi signal your laptop puts out can be deadly to your sperm count.  Mind you, this is really only a problem if you want kids.

The Close Up
I don’t hate children.  Truly, I don’t.  Child actors, on the other hand, I absolutely despise.  For every Dakota Fanning there is a handful of Olsen twins; for every Haley Joel Osment there is a swarming of Jake Lloyds (i.e. young Anakin Skywalker).  And I don’t blame the young stars and starlets—at that age, you simply do what you’re told.  Plus, being so young, they’ve had considerably less time than their adult contemporaries to hone their craft.  Still, their fault or not, most child actors are pretty lousy.

Which is why I’m none too happy about the plan to adapt Orson Scott Card’s famous sci-fi novel, Ender’s Game, for the big screen.  The novel tells the story of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a child genius who’s sent to Battle School in hopes that he might one day lead the offensive in the war against the Formics, a hostile alien race.  The novel is truly captivating, and happens to be one of my favourite books.  For one reason or another, it captures my imagination and resonates with me in ways that most other books do not.

Asa Butterfield will play Ender

And here’s the problem:  Ender’s Game is a novel peopled with children.  Of the numerous characters, there are only a handful of adults.  And so a movie adaptation of Ender’s Game means either hiring a disproportionate amount of child actors or hiring a director who isn’t afraid to veer away from the source material.

Of course, you know which way the studio went.  Like always, they chose poorly, which means the Ender’s Game movie will be a circus of children.  Which is a roundabout way of saying that the movie will surely suck.

Mind you, some of the recently announced casting choices seem promising.  Hugo star Asa Butterfield has been cast for the role of Ender, and True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld is apparently in talks to play Petra Arkanian, one of Ender’s friends at Battle School.  As far as child actors go, these two are top notch.

But here’s the problem: good child actors need a good director.  Truly, this makes all the difference in the world.  Consider Natalie Portman’s stunning performance in the 1994 French thriller The Professional, and then consider her work in the Star Wars prequels.  There’s no questioning that she’s a remarkably talented actress, but she floundered under the poor direction of George Lucas (truth be told, I think the entire cast did).

Unfortunately, Ender’s Game is being directed by Gavin Hood, the guy responsible for the mess that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Promising child actors or not, this doesn’t bode well.

And so a film peopled by children and directed by a man who has yet to earn his stripes is a film in danger of being of a sure fire suck fest.

Like I said, I don’t hate children, just most child actors.  And Ender’s Game is too good of a story to ruin it in typical Hollywood fashion.  Like what parents often say to their children, it’s about time Hollywood grew up.

The 168 Turnaround is a week-in-review column, a place for me to reflect on the week’s most interesting pop culture news items.  If it mattered to me or I think it might matter to you, then it will be here.  If I’ve overlooked an important news item, or if you have a comment or question, please leave a response below.  Thank you for reading.

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