1/24/08

RVOD013 Act Your Age

(1949, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

Sorry son, but we’re going to have to hang you.

Rating: ***


In a nutshell:


A young vandal turns over a new leaf.

Summary:

Are those... Are those curlers in Kevin's hair?Jim prizes his mechanical pencil, which he won in an essay contest. We don’t discover this until well into the short, but no matter; the pencil’s origin turns out to be of no significance anyway.

This special pencil runs out of lead at a crucial moment during the note-taking process. He takes his frustration out on his innocent desk, using the pencil’s metal point to scratch his initials into the surface. He is, of course, discovered, and the principal takes away his pencil until he can learn to act his age (and refinish the desk). With the help of the bitter and crusty school janitor, he learns that relentless self-criticism is the key to emotional maturity. Apparently satisfied with Jim’s newly established sense of self-loathing, the principal returns the pencil.

Thoughts:

Child psychology of the fifties can apparently be summed up as “Buck up, you pansy,” an all-purpose phrase that has never failed to straighten out and/or perk up a youngster in distress. I’d like to say we’ve come a long way since then, but nowadays we’ve gone with, “Your feelings are valid no matter how destructive they are.” This shakes out as just another way to feel like you’re helping without the actual, you know, help. The short itself is rather over-idealized in that it assumes that kids in general can recognize and solve their emotional maturity issues on their own with only the very slightest of nudges from their supervising adults. It’s also rather disingenuous to imply that this sort of behavior isn’t normal for teenagers.

Mike, Bill, and Kevin chime in often to keep this rather dry short palatable. When the principal intones, “Growing up is a problem,” Mike finishes, “We must stamp it out.” As Jim’s echo-effect inner voice harangues him about his own childish behavior, Bill notes, “He has a very depressed conscience.” When Jim finally outlines his plan, Kevin enthusiastically agrees with it; “Constant criticism; that’s the future!” It’s a watchable short on its own, and with the commentary it recalls some of the better educational films mocked back in the days of Mystery Science Theater.