Now on Netflix: The innocence of life, pre-Internet

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By Darren Johnson
It’s New to You!

If you want to know how innocent America was before the Internet changed everything, try these three recent Netflix releases.

First, let’s look at the 1994 movie “Milk Money.” It does poorly on review sites because most reviews are written at the time of the theatrical release; in 1994, this type of movie already seemed antiquated, and the country was getting sick of cutesy star Melanie Griffith. As well, the premise of the movie – a “decent” guy (Ed Harris) finds love by “saving” a prostitute – had been done before, most notably in “Pretty Woman.”

The movie was a flop, lost money, and definitely demonstrated the waning light of Griffith’s star at that time.
But old is new again, and time is a funny thing, and “Milk Money” may come off as quaint today. It’s certainly watchable via the more casual standards of Netflix, and there are some laughs. While the Harris character is a boring washout, there are some fine child-acting performances and Griffith, playing Vee, certainly has an amazing ability to light up a screen.milk-money

Demonstrating how much the world has changed in just the past couple of decades, we find three suburban boys – Brad (Adam LaVorgna), Frank (Michael Patrick Carter) and Kevin (Brian Christopher) – trying desperately to see boobies. This dilemma would be much more solvable today, considering the rise of the Internet since then, but, alas, this was once a common problem.

They pool their money, bike to a major city and try to hire a hooker to show them her body. They get more than they bargained for when the hooker is Vee, who is fleeing her mobbed-up pimp and ends up back in suburbia with the boys. In the prim-and-proper town, she runs into past clients, who deny knowing her. It’s a bit dark, but the story is told in the sugary way movies from that era were – and it’s only PG-13 – so it kind of works.
Eventually, Brad’s widowed, goofy dad encounters her and mayhem ensues.

I like these type movies. They are short, not all that serious, and don’t require my rapt attention. I can play Words With Friends while watching and not miss any plot points. Give this forgotten gem a polish.

buellerI Hate This Guy
I think I’m the only person in America who roots against the title character in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” He’s so smug, and he thinks he’s anti-authority, but he lives in a rich neighborhood, has a $4000 computer, drives around in a classic Ferrari convertible with his rich friends and makes a big deal out of missing seven or so days of school over a year and tricking the pee-on administrators there.

When I was in school, there were poorer kids who skipped weeks of classes, drove some beater Chevy or Ford, and had real problems. That they got their diplomas was a miracle, but they did. To me, that’s more of a story than some snotty suburban kid going to a museum, a fancy restaurant and baseball game all day. He also has time to change his grades via the computer, sit and lounge around poolside and then be in a parade. I guess the joy in this movie is the absurdity of packing all of that into one day.

In any case, this 1986 Matthew Broderick movie is famous – with lots of memorable scenes that still get referenced to this day – and hitting Netflix now in October (see chart, right). So it is a must-see from an historical perspective, at least.

who-took-johnnyThe Kid on the Milk Carton
“Who Took Johnny” is an excellent documentary. The kidnapping of Johnny Gosch, a Midwestern paperboy on his route, in 1982 changed everything.

First, by the end of that decade, very few newspapers were using child labor anymore. Second, the country started becoming aware that pedophiles exist, and that they have a child-slave network that they exploit through prostitution and pornography. Before the Gosch case, people had little clue about this. By the 1990s, fearful parents were keeping kids indoors.

When you watch movies with kids in them pre-2000 – for example, the two movies referenced above – notice how freer children were to wander their neighborhoods. Could you imagine three suburban 11-year-olds biking to a crime-riddled part of a city to see boobies today?

Even though his case got national attention, and even was a repeated subject on “America’s Most Wanted,” Gosch has never been located. His parents today are broken people.

“Who Took Johnny” reopens the case two decades later, talking to Gosch’s parents and lawyers from the era. It’s obvious the police were negligent in investigating this. Were they protecting a child sex ring? That case changed so much in this country. It was when America started to lose its innocence, and parents grew reactive. This is a must-watch.

It’s New to You! is a fantastic column that finds hidden gems on services like Netflix, started in 2010.

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