It’s the Fourth of July, and that means only one thing (besides the fact that it’s our nation’s birthday, that is). No, not just loud bangs that make your dogs and cats howl and their fur stand on end. We’re talking about picnics!! So, to help you pack your basket, here is a cinematic shopping list. Don’t worry about overindulging–these movie meals are all fat free (and, in one or two cases, entertainment-free). All are widely available via DVD, Netflix, iTunes, etc., or ask your grocer.
__Pic-a-nic Basket: YOGI BEAR (2010) You may be a Yogi purist in which case you’ll want to plan your picnic around the original Hanna-Barbara cartoons. They’re great, but if you haven’t already checked out the latest bear incarnation, do so. Admittedly, it received so-so reviews, at best. But YOGI runs against the grain of today’s animated films, in that the humor in its tightly-woven story remains pretty true to the original’s spirit: more gentle and subtle. Not a great movie, but it bears watching.
__Utensils: FORKS OVER KNIVES (2011) I didn’t find this documentary as engaging as some reviewers did, but there’s no denying that it discusses an important topic: our nation’s addiction to meat. True, when you’re headed to a fourth of July picnic, who wants to think about giving up meat? Well, maybe this movie will persuade you to do just that. Starting July 5th, of course.
__Chicken: CHICKEN RUN (2000) No bones about it, there’s never a dull moment in this film from the creators of WALLACE AND GROMMIT. It very much resembles a fowl version of THE GREAT ESCAPE (Steve McQueen), only it tastes like… well, you know. Very plucky.
__Hamburgers: HAMBURGER (1986; Dick Butkus) If FORKS OVER KNIVES doesn’t turn you into a vegan, maybe this one, from the producers of the Police Academy series, will do it. A flunky student can’t cut the mustard at a real college, but he catches up at a place called Hamburger U. You wouldn’t go to Burger King and expect fine dining, and so this film shouldn’t be compared to GRAND ILLUSION. It might have appeal as a time capsule of the mid-80s, in case anyone’s interested. But this HAMBURGER is not well done, and it’s way past its sell-by date.
__Tomatoes: RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES! (1988) The tomatoes are back “and they’re stewed!” It’s a dicey choice; personally, I’m not a connoisseur of films that are purposely bad. This one’s somewhere between a spoof and a film that intends to become a cult classic. It’s silly fun, but it sort of fails at both. George Clooney, believe it or not, landed a plum role in this movie.
__Egg Salad: THE EGG AND I (1947; Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray) Charming, sunny, and very funny, this picture introduced the world to the Kettles. The two likable stars go over easy.
__Chips: CHiPS (1977-83 TV series) I was a regular viewer of this show during its first couple of seasons. Don’t ask me why. It’s not bad, it’s that it’s so predictable. After you’ve seen one episode, you’ve seen them all. As they say, however, you can’t eat–I mean, watch–just one.
__ Salt & Pepper: SALT AND PEPPER (1968; Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford) Nowadays, we’re more careful about our sodium intake. But once in a while, you just want to throw caution to the wind, and pour on the salt and seasonings. Indulge yourself in this bit of overcooked but very tasty cinematic feast.
__Wine: SIDEWAYS (2004; Paul Giamatti) Your challenge: Try to devour this delicious film without craving a glass or two of Pinot Noir.