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'King Kong': Not Suitable for Children



Critics have called KING KONG, director Peter Jackson's 207 million dollar special effects extravaganza, a triumph of digital technology. The movie's described as featuring enough dinosaurs to overrun JURASSIC PARK. It's been nominated for four Oscars, Best Art Direction, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects. But KING KONG was shut out in all the major categories for this year's Academy Awards.

Commentator Zoe Walrand is not upset by that. She was wowed by the special effects, but not in the way you might imagine.

ZOE WALRAND, reporting:

It's no surprise that director Peter Jackson's retelling of the KING KONG story appeals to boys of all ages. Recently a couple of grown up friends coerced me into attending Jackson's action spectacle where we heard a few cools and awesomes whispered with reverential fervor by zealous teenagers. My friends said they thought the movie was a little silly, but they expressed tremendous admiration for the special effects. Translation, they loved it.

I like it ok, but I didn't think it was silly. It was terrifying. I was disturbed, startled, scared, grossed out, even afraid just as I suspect Peter Jackson intended. So is the tiny girl, a wispy blonde of no more than three or four sitting two rows in front of me in a seat away from her daddy. As the images grew more repulsive and violent I couldn't help but watch the screen less and the little girl more. She squirmed, rocked back and forth, hopped on and off her chair, changed seats, hit her head and tried to talk to her daddy. He was too mesmerized to offer the comfort of a lap or a hug.

I wanted to grab her and run out of the theater before the images would traumatize, before that night's dreams. I thought of Hillary Clinton's IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD and decided then and there that I would confront her father when they left the theater. I rehearsed, what on earth's the matter with you? You're her father. Why would you expose your precious little child to this horror show? I felt like a witness to child abuse, but with no bruises to prove it.

The action escalated, bodies flew, the heroine trembled, terrifying creatures leapt onto unsuspecting victims, people died in anguish. And the little girl made noise. She whimpered, she pulled on her daddy's sleeve, she asked pleading tearful questions and finally she talked out loud. When her father had had enough he stood up and walked out, tiny daughter trailing behind. I followed, but my resolve began to fade. Wait a minute, stop, this is none of my business. I don't know the circumstances and he is leaving the theater after all. As they neared the exit I heard her ask yet another question in that sweet, high pitched tiny voice. Then his answer, because you couldn't keep your freaking mouth shut. Well then, neither would I.

BLOCK: Commentator Zoe Walrand is a writer who lives in Northern California and teaches at Humboldt State University. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Zoe Walrand