Oogieloves is a Perfect First Movie for a Toddler (Plus, Awesome Giveaway!)

On Monday I took my son to the premiere of “The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure,” which officially opened in our area yesterday.

The Oogieloves (Zoozie, Toofie, and Goobie) with guest star Chazz Palminteri.

This was my son’s first movie (he’s just shy of 3 years old). He got the added thrill of attending a premiere—there was no red carpet, but there were clowns on stilts (two days later and he’s still in awe, telling me “I don’t know how they got that way!”) and carnival mayhem in the lobby of Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. And while he adored the clowns, it was the interactive nature of the film that drew him in.

My boy got his first taste of popcorn (total thumbs-up) and of a big screen (“when are the clowns going to turn the big TV on?” he asked me). Without any prompting needed from me, he eagerly danced and waved the light-stick star he was given upon entering the theater whenever music played. He clapped when I clapped, and told me with great conviction that he clapped much faster than me!

As with all great kids’ movies, there’s some tasty bait for the parents in Oogieloves, too—in this case, an array of surprising guest stars who bring life to the Oogies’ adventures. Among them: Cloris Leachman, as polka-dot-clad Dotty, is as entertaining as ever. Christopher Lloyd (who, as it happens, was born locally in Stamford in Fairfield County, CT) brings a touch of eccentricity to the screen in a minor role that’s reminiscent of his quirky inventor in Back to the Future. Toni Braxton, Cary Elwes, and Jaime Pressly each shine in their stints. And, by far my favorite guest star, Bronx-bred Chazz Palminteri brought the kids’ house down as Milky Marvin, the diner owner who’s prone to talking and singing with enthusiastic and amusing alliterative excess.

“This is the first time in motion picture history where kids will actually interact…[and] get a chance to stand up and sing and dance,” Palminteri says in a video on the movie’s official cast site.

Indeed, the movie was made with interaction in mind. Forget the “shhhhhhs” that one normally hears in movie houses. And don’t worry if your kid can see over the 6-foot-tall dad in the row in front of her. Because—hopefully—the kids will be standing throughout much of the show.

Producer Ken Viselman—the creative force behind the Teletubbies, one of the most successful series for preschoolers ever—has set out to change the way Hollywood talks to children, especially the youngest children. With this film, he and his creative team of writer Scott Stabile and director Matthew Diamond, want movie-goers dancing, singing, clapping, jumping, and yelling—engaging! There are screen devices such as animated butterflies that flit across the screen and written instructions such as “It’s okay to sit now” that prompt action throughout the story. Hurray to the message of interaction they promote:

“For young children, nothing is more special than spending interactive time with a caring and loving grown-up who is a steady presence in their lives. Time together – not just being in the same room, but engaging a child with focused, sustained attention – is one of the best gifts that an adult can give a child.”

Perhaps NYC is just a tad more jaded than the rest of the country (gee, you think?). There are times I embrace our city’s attitude, and times it irks the heck out of me. This time, it was the latter. Let’s just say not all the parents in the esteemed Starr Theater got it—or, if they did, they chose not to show it. As Viselman told the audience before the movie began, caregiver participation is key. And since I have no problem acting goofy and making a fool of myself if it makes my son happy (!), I dove right in, swaying to the music and holding his hand as he danced in front of his seat. But I noticed that about half of the adults sat primly in their seats, looking either bored or annoyed or plain tired. Come on, people—we were having fun, and if you let yourself, your kids would have had more fun, too!

The moral of that story: Let yourself be silly. Don’t give a darn what other (boring) people might think. Go to see The Oogieloves with your whole family, or with a brood of your child’s friends, and be prepared to have a good time, no inhibitions. The delight on your kid’s face will be worth it, I swear.

Clockwise from top left: My son eager for the lights to go down; Cloris Leachman as Dotty; clowns outside the venue; and, of course, popcorn.

Enter to Win!!!

With that said, why not head to the theater—for free!—and meet the Oogieloves, who will be visiting certain theaters in Manhattan, Deer Park on Long Island, and Paramus, NJ THIS FRIDAY. Just comment on this post for one chance to win, go to our Facebook page and share why you know your kids will dance at The Oogieloves for another chance! And/or, if you’re on Twitter, tweet #oogieloves @NYMetroParents for a third entry. We’ll be selecting 2 winners of 4 tickets each to attend the theater of your choice.

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