Making the Grades
With media attention as quiet as the film itself, Warner Brothers' Family Tree breezed through its limited theatrical debut, landing almost unnoticed as a video release.
It is the story of a slightly round-in-the-middle ten-year-old boy named Mitch (Andrew Lawrence), more commonly referred to as Mess, who makes friends with a tree (yes, you read that correctly). While their conversations may be slightly one-sided, the boy finds great solace confiding to Old Oak about his lack of football expertise. He keenly feels these inadequacies because older brother Mark (Matthew Lawrence) is quarterback on the school team. Of course spending all his spare time sitting in a tree is not improving his popularity either.
But life really looks bleak when his father, Henry Musser (Robert Forster) makes a real estate deal with a company looking to build a plastics factory. Considering every thing in the small town of Wagstaff (except for Old Oak) has been shriveling up and dying since the loss of a major industry a few years earlier, this should be welcomed news. And it is for everyone except Mess when he discovers the location of the plant will be on the lot where Old Oak sits. Certain he will lose the tree, Mess's sorrow turns into determination when he meets a former town resident and decorated war hero, who encourages him stand up for what he believes in.
Directed by Duane Clark, son of American Bandstand's Dick Clark, this movie probably won't leave the audience dancing. However, even if this non-groundbreaking cinema relies on sentimentalism, somewhat typecast characters, and a predictable happy conclusion, the slow moving script still provides something worth viewing for families.
Good messages about getting involved in your community and not seeing age as a barrier to friendship, are available with practically no objectionable content. The Mussers are a loving family, and their mother Sarah (Naomi Judd) influences her husband and son to use better communications to sort out their differences of opinion.
Appropriate for all ages, Family Tree is worthy of a long and leafy life as a video rental.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Family Tree.
Can you think of any other options, besides the conclusion offered in the film, that would have saved the tree and still accommodated the new factory? Is a significant landmark like Old Oak more important than a job-creating business?
What role did the media play in helping Mess’s cause? What side does the media usually take—the underdog (like Mess) or big business? Why?