What is fun, brings families together, and is free? Answer: Family Movie Night sponsored by Walmart and P & G, where even the commercials are family-friendly. (Oh, that sounds like a commercial itself, doesn’t it? But the only thing I’m selling is the opportunity to cuddle up with your loved ones for family-friendly entertainment.)
I rarely watch TV, so just getting me on the couch in front of that thing gets the kids excited. The wholesome entertainment and moral values of this film series are what gets me excited—that, and the fact that moviemakers are finally figuring out that if they make it family-friendly, we will come.
A survey conducted by the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) Alliance for Family Entertainment found that 94 percent of those surveyed said it’s extremely or very important that their families spend time together, and entertainment is a primary way their families get together. A full 71 percent of parents would go out of their way to find these types of programs.
It’s a Hit
With that in mind, in April of 2010 Walmart and Proctor and Gamble launched Family Movie Night on NBC and Fox, featuring wholesome movies with teachable moments. The series was welcomed into 16 million homes across America during the first year and there are plans to extend the project into 2012. The next Family Movie Night film, “The Game of Your Life,” airs on NBC Friday, December 2, 8/7 p.m. Central.
The plot is an instant kid-pleaser. High school gamer Zach Taylor earns a scholarship to an elite video game design school headed by a billionaire gaming icon. It is an opportunity to study alongside the country’s most creative minds to pursue a career as a video game designer. But competition is stiff, so Zach must first pass the infamous freshman project that eliminates half of the class. The group project—to create a social interactive game—creates tension while, at the same time, Zach is pulled into a mysterious and suspicious side job. The choice between loyalty to his school friends and helping his dad, who is in financial trouble, creates a moral dilemma. Zach has to make a decision that will affect his future and those he cares about.
Young Actor Finds Fitting Role
Nathan Kress plays the part of Phillip, one of Zach’s project friends. In an interview with Kress, he explained how this role in a Family Movie Night project fits perfectly with his standard for acting. Best known as Freddie Benson in Nickelodeon’s TV show “iCarly,” he said that his Christian faith guides everything that he does.
“My faith is the most important thing for me,” said Kress. “It sets the standard for what I will and won’t do.” For instance, he explained that he will not play characters with bad morals, unless it’s for the purpose of showing that bad behavior leads to bad results. In a guest appearance on the CBS television program “CSI,” he played such a role. His character ended up dead as a result of his criminal activity. “I’ll play a bad guy as long as the behavior is not glorified, like I did in ‘CSI,’” he explains.
Taking his Christianity to work with him means that sometimes, people notice. “My faith has a lot with how I carry myself and how I treat people,” Kress said. “I’ve had people comment that I act different and they ask me why; it gives me an opportunity to explain.”
Kress attended regular school between the ages of six and eleven, when the acting bug bit him. He had some acting experience when he was very young, but a role in a school play convinced him this was a passion he wanted to pursue. So he began homeschooling in order to be available for cast calls. When he landed his part on “iCarly,” it gave him regular work on a wholesome series. “I went from that to Family Movie Night knowing I could count on the same values,” he says. “This is something that is safe for kids to watch.”
Lorrie Gramer, president of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers, hopes there will continue to be more family friendly movies. She spent some time with the director of the Family Fun Night project and was on the set for the filming of “The Game of Your Life.” “We learned first-hand why these movies are being made and the message we all need to give to Hollywood that these are the kind of movies we want,” Gramer says. “I hope everyone who reads this article not only watches ‘Game of Your Life’ with their own family, but encourages their neighbors, friends, and relatives to do the same.
“We need to commend Walmart and Proctor & Gamble for what they are really doing on our behalf,” she explains, “producing movies that are not only appropriate for family viewing, but ones with a message we as parents can use to talk with our children about values we want them to develop.”
“The Game of Your Life,” airs on NBC Friday, December 2, 8/7 p.m. Central.