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Film Mom: 'Chasing Mavericks' and Choosing Your Own 'Family'

Family Film Mom is a weekly column about family entertainment for parents with kids (and kids with parents) by Tara McNamara, the editor and founder of

TV has long been using primetime to document the evolution of the American family. Leave It to Beaver was a relic by the time The Brady Bunch started blending families.  Single mother Murphy Brown set off a political firestorm and today Dan Quayle must be absolutely apoplectic over The New Normal, about a gay couple making a baby with a surrogate single mother. TV is reflecting the new family dynamics and, in doing so, makes these "alternative" families more accepted.

It’s kind of strange, then, that "family films" haven’t been as progressive. The most radical is perhaps Despicable Me, when a villain adopts three girls to execute an evil plan. This weekend's Chasing Mavericks, based on a true story, introduces a different concept: you can choose your family. In it, 15-year-old Jay (Jonny Weston) idolizes local surfing legend Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler), and asks him to teach him to navigate the big waves at the mythical, massive Mavericks surf spot. Both have unresolved daddy issues – Jay’s dad abandoned him, Frosty’s was an angry alcoholic. Sharing a mutual obsession with the sport, the two develop a relationship many fathers and sons would envy.

The idea of choosing your own family hits home to me. Fourteen years ago, my babysitter’s little sister would tag along to babysit my preschooler. I moved out of state, but much like Jay, she stayed in touch with me, coming to visit me through the years. Now, that little girl is 24, lives with my family and my daughter introduces her as her sister.  So truly, just like in Chasing Mavericks, you can choose your own family. But I don't think that means you can choose Gerard Butler to be your husband. Sorry. 

Chasing Mavericks opens Oct. 26. Here are three movies you can see with your family today:


 Here Comes the Boom. I wept during this film because I was so proud of Kevin James for making a movie of substance. It’s also funny, full of action and solidly entertaining. Seriously, it’s really good.




 Frankenweenie. A scientific spin on the monster movie, what’s not to love?




 Argo. Yes, it’s rated R because of repeated use of the F-word in a joke. But more importantly, it puts the 1979 Iranian Revolution in perspective and, in doing so, sheds light on current problems in Iran. Argo is not only gripping and educational for teens, it’s this year’s Moneyball of creative solutions.




To read what kids think about these movies, please check out, where all kids are movie critics.

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