Today was a rites of passage. It was my daughter’s first visit to the cinema, and I wanted it to be special. As pathetic as it sounds, some of the most pivotal moments in my life have involved sitting on my own in a darkened room, popcorn in hand, surrounded by a bunch of total strangers. I love being transported to another world for an hour and a half, far away from the mundane, fully immersed in fictitious worlds and lives. I really want Martha to love film as much as I used to; I say used to, because once you have kids, you can kiss the cinema goodbye. And try staying awake for longer than 20 minutes once you stick a film on of an evening. Nowadays, I find that there’s nothing more soporific than a good title sequence.
So, as much as my heart sank when I saw that there was a Peppa Pig movie out in cinemas, part of my secretly relished the opportunity to introduce Martha to the multiplex (not that a die hard arthouse fan like me likes the concept of a multiplex, but the alliteration works nicely here). Now, it just goes to show how out of touch with the film going experience I am, but I busted my arse getting us to the cinema bang on time, only to remember that the adverts and trailers last at least 20 minutes, which eats into the valuable toddler attention span. But as it was a Saturday in ‘bustling’ Wood Green, I thought I’d better get in there quickly and make sure we had a decent seat near the doors in case of a tantrum or poo explosion. I needn’t have worried; we had the whole cinema to ourselves.
As an appetiser, we had to use the disabled lift to get the buggy down stairs, and Martha loved it’s slow, smooth action – so far so good. As I pushed open the doors to Screen 1, I braced myself for absolute mayhem. But nothing. Zilch. It was like a gift from the film gods; a whole auditorium full of soft red seats, fun strip lighting on the stairs, and not a single person in sight. Martha’s face lit up, and she spared no time bounding up and down the isles and crawling all over the seats. Part of me was a little sad that the place was empty, especially on a Saturday, but I suppose nobody in their right mind goes to the cinema at 10am…with a child aged 18 months…in Wood Green. The anxiety I’d had about what to do with the buggy dissipated in an instant, as we commandeered the two best seats in the house.
Now, onto the film. As I mentioned before, the trailers went on for 20 minutes at least, and even though Martha was awestruck by seeing moving colourful images on a huge screen, I knew this would shave off time from the film itself, which was a shame. However, she gripped my hand and kicked her legs with excitement for pretty much the whole time; much like I do when watching Le Mepris.
‘Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience’ is a bit of a hotchpotch of a movie. I think the producers quickly realised that making an hour long Peppa Pig cartoon wouldn’t have kept their audience’s attention (and would have driven parents to an early grave) so instead they interspersed four or five new episodes among an odd scenario featuring a grating children’s TV presenter type called Daisy (wearing dungarees of course), and puppets of Peppa and George, who all lived in the same house together. Whose house it was we’ll never know, and why the pigs were puppets is still a mystery.
Anyone who is subjected to Peppa Pig on a regular basis will have seen any given episode at least three or four times (and can probably quote their way though most of them), so to see brand new cartoons featuring familiar voices such as David Mitchell and Jo Brand, was, if not riveting, enough of a distraction. The scenes with the helium toned Daisy and her puppet pig friends, although deeply annoying, were obviously designed to keep the kids interested, as they featured singing, dancing, call and response; basically all the stuff you do at ‘Jack and Jill’s Music Club’ or whatever your local toddler music and movement class is called. For an 18-month-old like Martha, most of this was a bit over her head, but I think she enjoyed the singing and the giant furry pigs.
45 minutes into the film, we’d been sitting in the cinema for over an hour. I needed the toilet, and Martha was starting to wriggle and moan as it was well past her bedtime, so it seemed like the right time to get the hell out of there. Unless Daisy lost her mind and chopped up the little piggies with an axe before hanging herself in the Wendy house, I don’t think we missed anything vital. I’m glad Martha was lucky enough to see her first film in an empty auditorium, and she clearly loved the whole experience, especially as it involved her favourite show.
There’s a Fassbinder season on at the BFI, I think she’s ready…