She Spoke in Parables of Steve Martin Movies…


“He hates these cans. Stay away from the cans!” – Steve Martin in The Jerk


Ah, the lecture. There are but few forms of teenage consequences that are as memorable. And what better way to start it off than quotes from movies before you were born? So here’s my handy guide to parental lectures, via Steve Martin movies.

As a mom, it was my requirement that the kids watch certain Steve Martin movies. I also subjected them to annual The Sound of Music and It’s a Wonderful Life viewings. Why, you ask? Don’t talk back! Read on.

  • The Jerk
  • All of Me
  • The Man With Two Brains
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • HouseSitter
  • Bringing Down the House
  • Roxanne

Now that you’re listening, I’ll explain why I use Steve Martin movies for lectures.

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 7.21.59 PM

Speed Racer and the coveted Mach 5

Well, Speed Racer is not longer on TV, for one. The mismatched audio from Retro Speed Racer episodes abound with Trixie’s endless monologues and run-on sentences directed to Speed about Racer X and other perils without a breath offers some great ideas for lectures. *GASP*. There are also lessons to be learned from Spritle’s voice, which sounds like a 60-year-old female, heavy smoker. But none of my kids know who (retro) Speed Racer is, and are not interested in my closeted, 5th grade collection of Matchbox cars.

As a parent, if you must lecture (and you will from time to time) you may as well have fun and enjoy your kids. Get them to learn, rather than resort to punishment. Instead, watch one of these movies with your kids, make some popcorn, laugh and hug them. They won’t be with you forever, so teach wisely and happily.

Just give me a sign -  Steve Martin The Main with Two BrainsHave you ever needed an answer for something – just a sign, yet you ignored it? 

Yes, we’ve all had moments like that. When we’ve ignored the signs, the advice, the caring words of someone who wants to help us avoid the pain. Sometimes we need to be shown we missed the signs in the first place – things like earthquakes and spinning pictures and disembodied voices saying “NOOOOO!”.

But hindsight is 20/20 isn’t it? Want to know how ridiculous it is when you look back and realize the signs were all there, only you chose not to see them? Why not bake some cookies and discuss this scene in The Man With Two Brains. We’ve all done this, and it’s kind of comforting to watch how we can all miss things that seem so obvious after we’ve made the mistakes, only to realize very obvious signs were there all along. We all sometimes choose to see what we want to see, don’t we? But when you laugh about it, it’s a little easier to move on.

Time flies when you’re in love, doesn’t it? It’s like a wonderful, confusing time warp. It makes you want to play the trumpet.

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes, taken from The Jerk when Navin is speaking to Marie, who is sleeping:

“I know we’ve only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in

Steve Martin and Bernadette Petersthe evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it.”

When it feels like a whirlwind, when you lose track of time. This a wonderful time, and also an important time to be sure to watch the signs. (see above.) Plus, have fun! One of the best songs ever from The Jerk.

All of me

Music straight from an era from which I belonged, All of Me is a sweet song composed by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons around 1931. I like the Gypsy Jazz version better. I also personally love that  Steve plays a guitar in this movie, since I’m a fan of his music anyway.

The movie has sweet undertones as well, as it tackles issues like: what’s inside is critically important. It also opens up a dialogue about what happens after death, the spiritual beliefs others may have, and reincarnation. Plus it’s freakin hilarious. Not sure if you’re comfortable talking about spiritual ideas with teens, but everyone should. Teenagers are full of thoughts and musings, and should be encouraged to continue to think deep – it’s what makes us human. The scenes where Steve Martin shares a body with Lilly Tomlin’s character are absolutely brilliant, and never gets old.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and HouseSitter

I lump these two together, because for me they have more to do with imagination, free association. I would avoid this movie if you’re worried about kids who might be inspired to feign a Hungarian accent and act like a waitress as a ticket to getting a brand new house for free. Although, that kid would be really easy to spot.

bringing-down-the-houseBringing Down the House

Bringing Down the House is great for more reasons than how not to dance if you’re a white guy.  We enjoyed this movie, which featured Steve Martin’s very safe toe-dip into a little bit of hot soul. We liked that Queen & Steve worked in some statements and situations about race, and that a mixed relationship culminated in the end, even if not with the main character.

Queen Latifah is beautiful as always, and is a terrific model for girls who are gorgeous no matter what, with no apologies. Although there’s one scene in the living room after the dance scene that’s a little bit awkward for kids and tweens. You may want to skip the scene after the dance, depending on your comfort level.

I think for us, a very blended family full of different races, it made us feel someone helped to communicate our world a bit to people who had never met anyone black. It kind of took our world to families who could never understand, outside of the context of a movie, what the two cultures (urban and suburban or black and white) could be like. It teaches us to judge a person’s character one at a time, not by groups.

I like the way Queen Latifah’s character is more observant and careful than Steve’s character. It’s a good reminder that we must each slow down and observe. Life moves too fast, and many people in stereotypical suburban lifestyles are going too fast to notice the most important things.

Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 2.09.44 AMRoxanne

Last, but not least, is Roxanne.

I have always loved the story of  Cyrano de Bergerac, so much so I was able to catch it on video one year in subtitles, featuring 2 hours of Gérard Depardeu and tears. I was entranced. Roxanne is a simpler, easy-to-understand version.

It’s a statement about seeing what’s on the inside, versus a distracting outside – an apparent favorite theme of Martin’s. (And mine.)

The movie demonstrates that intelligence, sensitivity, honor and wit are more desirable than chiseled features and jock-like behavior.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard men say women are attracted to bad boys. This movie addresses that mistake on the woman’s part. The bad boy in the case, is simply the wrong one for her.

Falling in love with one, special girl and the proclaiming of this love no matter one’s doubt in oneself are whats at stake here. This movie teaches boys how more cerebral, sensitive men can act, and could possibly inspire those boys who know no such men in their lives. We need a remake of this movie because the message is so important. It would do well with a modern, high-tech blogging or social media type of communication.

So, those are my movie picks for lectures. It makes me realize how many lectures were pretty positive. I guess that’s a very good thing! And thanks to my kids for putting up with my talking and talking.

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