When my cousin was ten years old, he used to beg me to take him to see the latest action flicks, particularly if they were spy thrillers or crime dramas.  I never gave in to his requests simply because of the movie ratings:  even the PG-13 films were pushing the envelope of exposing him to excess violence.  Therefore, I vowed to him that I would set up a movie night with appropriate yet fun and memorable action or suspense. 

My research for the perfect set of action flicks was two-fold:  not only did it have to please my cousin, but my tastes as well.  I would pass the time I had with some enjoyable rentals, but also be available to answer any questions or comments about them as we both watched together.  This would make lasting memories for him to look back on as we both aged.  Since we usually watched one or two movies weekly, I decided to tell him that for the next month, the theme would be action, with a variety of main characters and plots.  Naturally, he was delighted that I had honored his requests for his favorite type of movie.  Just a few years ago, I had taken him to the theatre to see director Peter Jackson’s version of “King Kong” and he cried (out of fear) during the film.  I was proud of the fact that prior to our first night of the action theme, he reminded me of the “King Kong” incident and assured me that he wouldn’t get upset like that again. 

My top five picks for this particular theme are pretty well-rounded, and can be extended to include sequels, in some cases.  My first choice was the oldest of the bunch, made in the year 1989:  “Turner and Hooch”.  This is a Tom Hanks classic, as it is both suspenseful and funny at the same time.  This detective Turner sort of inherits a huge, slobbering dog as the outcome of a murder case.  While attempting to find the animal a permanent home and solve the mystery of Hooch’s owner’s death, they bond.  But the bond didn’t come over-night, and there’s plenty of action as the detective is actually forced to take the dog with him to work.  Now, I will warn parents that there is a sad element towards the end, but it can be handled delicately with a warning and a reassurance that it’s okay to cry about things for a little bit, because that’s part of life.  The movie also ends on a positive note.  After talking to my cousin, he understood the difference between crying about fearful things and truly sad stuff.  Despite the fact that he cried during the appropriate time of the film, he said he would rate this movie as one of his top favorites because it made him laugh a lot.  I’m still so proud of his maturity and the fact that he is a budding film critic.  Coincidentally, I shared the exact same emotions about “Turner and Hooch” as my cousin, even as an adult.

The next week, we watched “Agent Cody Banks”, which was about a teenage spy working for the CIA.  Frankie Muniz proves to be a talented actor on both the small and large screens.  His mission during this film has just the right amount of complexity for tweens and can appeal to even slightly younger sets as well.  The action is of good quality and diverse, which was probably why my cousin was impressed.  I also liked how the romantic elements were not too overpowering.  Hilary Duff’s character was also refreshing and pleasant. 

The third week of my action flicks was the second oldest film of the bunch, but another favorite of mine:  “Cop and A Half”.  This movie was directed by Henry Winkler of “Happy Days” fame and starred Burt Reynolds.  He plays a cop who finds himself personally involved with the witness of a murder, but it turns out that it is an eight-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a cop himself one day.  The kid blackmails the detective by offering to identify the killer only if allowed to become an official police officer for a few days.  I like how this kid researches all about the laws and procedures of being a real cop.  He truly does his homework on the subject, considering his young age.  I think it inspired my cousin to pursue his dreams early in life, not just to wait until he gets older.  This film is heavy with crime drama, but it’s all in a healthy perspective.

My next film was picked mainly because I wanted to balance the male and female roles of the main characters:  “Nancy Drew”.  This was an unexpected delight for me, starring Emma Roberts, who happens to be Julia Roberts’ niece.  I couldn’t help but compare her to her aunt, because Julia is one of my favorite actresses.  Emma has some similar mannerisms to her aunt, and she’s definitely a cute little super sleuth that perfectly represents the books of the movie’s fame.  Nancy is very passionate about her mystery-solving skills, and this particular case is a smart caper that keeps viewers interested throughout the movie, even prompting my cousin to ask some questions about it.  I even appreciated the references to various novels which were hidden throughout the film.  However, all the pieces of the puzzle eventually came together in an easy-to-understand way.  I liked the romantic triangle Drew had between Ned and Corky, while my cousin favored the chase scenes.

During our final week of the action theme movies, we ended up watching “Spy Kids” after “Nancy Drew”.  Spy Kids has a stellar cast of characters and supporting characters, including Alexa Vega, Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Teri Hatcher, Cheech Marin and even Tony Shalhoub.  This film is ultra cute and super high-tech, but contains more fantasy than reality, as if one were in a giant SIMS spy interactive video game for kids.  However, my cousin appreciated the style and tone, coupled with the action sequences.  I thought it was an imaginative, light-hearted romp through the world of spies – from a child’s perspective.  I would call it a twenty-first century B-movie.  It was still entertaining enough for me to enjoy, although just barely.    

During the month following our action movie theme, we decided to rent the sequels to the movies we had chosen, as the entire endeavor was successful.  A couple of these action flicks weren’t as popular or entertaining as the previous ones, but still managed to provoke some dialogue of comparison and critique.  The continuation movie titles were “Agent Cody Banks 2:  Destination London”, “Spy Kids 2:  The Island of Lost Dreams” and “Spy Kids 3-D:  Game Over”.

In conclusion, the endeavor to pick out my top five action flicks for tweens has turned into a traditional, theme-based activity that I enjoy doing with my cousin.  It has inspired me to look for more themed movie nights and the idea has even caught on with various parents that I’ve talked to, over time.  Speaking of time, it’s precious:  before tweens declare their independence and cross that threshold into their teenage years, parents, relatives and guardians should strive to make quality memories with them.  This all serves to enhance their developing personalities, and will be time well-spent for everyone involved.