Movie Review: Gooby (2009, Dir. Wilson Coneybeare)

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I have entirely too much time on my hands.

This is why I buy those packs of movies in which you get 30 films for $5, and yet you still somehow overpaid. And as I wandered through one of my local chain stores, I spotted a family pack with a child hugging a large bear — so damn cute. Perfect for spending time with my daughter. That is, until I took a closer look and realized that the company that crams all these movies onto one disc must not be paying too much attention. A nightmare got stuck in there by mistake.

It’s really simple: put a knife in the hand of this thing and you instantly have the image that’s going to make you wake up screaming in a cold sweat for the next week. But it’s a children’s movie, and you can’t always find movies with creatures animated, CGI, animatronic, or totally-not-a-human-in-a-costume-that-makes-your-skin-crawl. So I thought I’d give it a shot. I have THAT much time on my hands.

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The movie begins with chipper music and a blatant lie. The child narrator tells the audience that by the time you’re eleven, you generally know which neighborhoods are good and which neighborhoods are bad. I disagree. I was 24 when I set out for Tijuana alone and returned to dumbfounded stares and stories that you could be robbed by the police at gunpoint, for fuck’s sake. The next two minutes pretty much spell out everything else for you. Willy has an overactive imagination springing from his obviously busy parents who are businessy people doing business with businessy business. They’re moving, he’s pissed and whines like a teenager about it. Keep in mind —  this is also the kid who believes that blue aliens with two heads and evil space monkeys are after him. What’s actually sort of cool is that this kid believes bad things are going to happen if they move, and he delivers his dialogue on the topic as though the motherfucking apocalypse is imminent.

The family moves and gets a housekeeper, one of the dumbass adults that allows kids to believe they can get one over on the grown-ups. When things are at their shittiest, Gooby shows up to scare the piss out of Willy, the audience, and eventually the school bully. I dare you to call me out if I’m lying about that piss part. And  to be clear, Gooby is, in fact, not a bear. He says so himself; he’s a monster.

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As the movie went on, my ideas about it all changed. At first I thought Willy was schizophrenic. His “overactive imagination” forced him to see the abomination of the two-headed Hoonie aliens (I thought they said “Hootie” at first). But after the appearance of Gooby, I started to think, and hope, that this was basically Fight Club for kids, with Willy playing the part of himself and of Gooby in his head. Imagining that it was just Willy during their midnight snack scene together, him talking to himself was reason enough to watch the movie that far. But as people began to see, hear, and interact with Gooby, it all got a little more dull. Pffft. Magic or believing or the power of love or whatever.

Truthfully, I wanted to hate this movie, but I can’t put my heart into it. I can see families watching this together, and you can’t hate on that. Though Gooby buying tickets to an R rated movie for Willy and his boys probably isn’t a great message. And you sort of have the vague feeling that you’ve seen this movie before; it’s like a combination of all the kids movies about growing up and moving on you’ve ever seen. Not that that’s a bad thing. So if you want to watch some Family Channel type stuff and you’re totally sick of your Disney collection, then yeah go for it. It’s about as middle of the road as you can get.

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