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KIDS ON FILM

'Meteor Man' Has Power to Amuse

August 12, 1993|LYNN SMITH | Lynn Smith is a staff writer for The Times' View section. and

In "The Meteor Man," a mild-mannered substitute teacher obtains supernatural powers after being hit by a meteorite and confronts a band of villainous drug lords in inner-city Washington D.C. (Rated PG.)

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For years, Ron and Jeanette Fernandez and their daughter Julia split up when they went to the movies. One parent stayed with Julia for a PG- or G-rated film. The other got to have a good time.

But finally, they say, the drought of films they can all see together seems to be ending.

In fact, most of the kids watching "The Meteor Man" were, as Julia was, sitting with parents. Most said the show was a "realistic," often funny, departure from Batman, Superman, Spiderman and the other super-heroes. You knew good was going to triumph gloriously over evil--it was just a matter of how and when.

"The main character, the Meteor Man, was well played," 13-year-old Julia said. "Most of the super-heroes are really, really super. He was more human, which was interesting.

"And the evil characters, they were really evil. It made the movie more interesting to have real villains. With a lot of the super-heroes, they're saving the Earth from problems that are unrealistic."

In contrast, the schoolteacher is among the fearful members of an inner-city community plagued by a sophisticated and treacherous gang--the Golden Lords--who initiate school-age boys into drug-running and violence.

Because of some of the violence, Julia didn't think the movie was for "little kids," meaning under about 7. Some kids said the funniest part was when Meteor Man and his nemesis, both suddenly gifted with the power to absorb the contents of any book, pick up "Runway Modeling." Julia said she laughed the hardest at James Earl Jones, as Meteor Man's neighbor, trying on different wigs. I laughed out loud at scenes in which Meteor Man explores his newfound powers to talk to his dog.

Clearly, there is a message here behind the humor. But the long, Byzantine ending introducing gun-toting, peacemaking gang members made it unclear exactly what it was. Julia and her parents, Ron and Jeanette of Irvine, tried to figure it out:

Julia: "It was good triumphing over evil. That's a good message."

Ron: "It wasn't necessarily the super-hero" who saved the day "but the gangs, who had seen the light. It was the organized power of society overcoming the peripheral bad guys. I thought the message was society can protect itself from the bad elements."

Jeanette: "There's also a strong message for kids in there about getting involved. Don't you think the gang members had guns to reinforce the message that guns don't solve the problem?"

Dad: "But if Meteor Man had come and taken care of everything with his superpowers, that wouldn't have been a good message either. It would have meant that things are out of control. Which they are."

Julia began to zone out, her eyes glazing over.

What did she think the message was for kids, as an expert?

"The superpowers gave him confidence. If he didn't have superpowers, he probably wouldn't have organized the whole thing."

Dad: "He didn't save the day. The gangs saved the day."

Julia: "But he got everybody together. You see, if he didn't have the superpowers, he wouldn't have organized them."

So now they know the price of togetherness. If you want to go to movies together, be prepared to debate.

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