Friday, February 7, 2014

Why We Love Heartwarming Movies

Heartwarming Movies are among the most predictable genres.  They sometimes get a bad rap by those who do not partake in the genre.  Yes, there are people who look down on those types of feel-good “Hallmark” movies with a passion.  But at the same time, heartwarming movies continue to get made, and people genuinely enjoy them.  For those who love them, they don’t care about the predictable plots and the feel-good endings.  And I must admit even I enjoy them every now and then.  So what’s so great about them?

Many heartwarming stories are about seeing the good side of people.  It’s about misunderstandings being resolvable and even the most hardened person realizing he was wrong.  One of the most recent movies I watched was Uncle Nino.  Uncle Nino is about an Italian-American family living in Chicago who is visited by their Uncle from Italy.  The father, played by Joe Mantegna is predictably ignoring his family for his job, where he is trying to get a big promotion.  The son, played by Trevor Morgan, is emotionally distant from his family and tries to fill the hole with being in a band with some questionable friends.  As happens in these types of movies, the father realizes his problem and stops ignoring his family.  Uncle Nino joins the band with his violin; they improve and win Battle of the Bands.  Yes, it was predictable.  But it also showed that two of the most distant characters can be redeemed.  No one person is beyond redemption, unlike other genres, even romantic films.

Another staple of the heartwarming movie is that no obstacle is insurmountable.  Beyond the Backboard and A Smile as Big as the Moon are two similar true-story teacher movies.  In both of them, the teacher is presented with a unique problem (in Beyond, she has to teach homeless kids at the homeless shelter; in Smile, he has to teach special needs kids how to be astronauts for the Space Camp program).  Typically, there are some obstacles along the way: the parents in Beyond don’t understand, the special needs kids fight amongst themselves in Smile, but in the end, the parents understand and the Special needs gets figure out a way to work together.  The true-story aspect lends authenticity to the plot.  We like it because someone real went into a hard situation and came out of it a better person and made everyone around him (or her) a better person as well.  The obstacles were hard and tough, but that someone overcame them.

Let’s not forget the supposed most important feature of heartwarming movies: the happy ending.  All three movies I mentioned above have a happy ending.  But I would argue different.  While many movies, despite whatever happens in the middle, give us a happy ending while it is seemingly required of heartwarming movies, I am sure that it is not the case for every heartwarming movie.  Perhaps the “dying of cancer” genre ends with the cancer character literally dying of cancer, a genre which sometimes features many heartwarming moments.  Perhaps it’s not as heartwarming because the obstacles are not insurmountable, the person still dies.  And yet, for many of the people around him or her they were touched by that man or woman who died and became better people because of it.  The Ultimate Gift is an example of that genre.  The child who had cancer dies, the main character and her mother became better people because of the little girl in their life. 

What most (but not all) heartwarming movies have in common is a de-emphasis on excessive violence, sexual content and language.  The people work their problems out with their words and actions, not by negative behaviors.  This means that the whole family can watch.  It’s appropriate for any age.  This quality helps market the movies and makes it appealing to those who appreciate family-friendly content.  Most heartwarming movies are not directed specifically at kids, however.  It’s aimed at anyone who appreciates that kind of content.  This is not a bad thing.  While some appreciate the recurring tropes in horror movies, or perhaps the recycling of storylines in the romance genre, there are those (including myself, at times) who appreciate the advantages of the heartwarming movies and the positive impact they bring on the world.  

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