Life, Animated

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I can’t help but think this documentary was a bit of Disney propaganda. Things wrap up a bit tidy, and we never really get as much family drama as you’d probably have with a family that has to deal with all the trials and tribulations of having a child with autism. Yet all that being said, I was extremely moved and it was a touching story about a very loving family.

Roger Ross Williams also did a splendid job of incorporating animated sequences that worked well. In the last few years when movies have done this, it has been with mixed results.

Owen Suskind is now in his early 20s, and we get to hear his story told mostly through his father Ron, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Early in the story, I enjoyed hearing the love he and his wife Cornelia have for their family. It made me sad to think that not all children with mental disabilities are born into families as supportive, and as financially secure as this one.

When Owen was 3, he started to withdraw and was no longer talking. The Suskind’s got the diagnosis that it was autism.

The roller coaster ride we had with Ron was intense. When his son started talking again, he has an enthusiasm that brings tears of joy to our eyes. When the doctor tells him not to get too excited, it’s tears of sadness.

We smile as Owen quotes various scenes from the animated Disney films he has on tape, his room covered with their posters.

We get to watch Owen deal with a girlfriend, possibly moving out on his own, giving an important speech in France,, and something the movie shocked me with — interesting perspectives from his older brother Walt.

There’s some fun watching the movie club Owen put together, especially when he’s able to snag a special guest — Jonathan Freeman, one of the voice-actors from Aladdin. But like I said earlier…other families won’t have this luxury. Ron was able to get a note to Freeman backstage after a play, and was able to use his connections to get this entire film made.

As somebody that spent five years coaching a Special Olympics basketball team, I have seen some of the ways different parents deal with children that have learning disabilities. For those that haven’t, this is the perfect introduction.

I’m giving it 3 ½ stars out of 5.

The current hit song by Ruth B is a perfect companion piece. Here are the lyrics:

There was a time when I was alone / Nowhere to go and no place to call home

My only friend was the man in the moon / And even sometimes he would go away, too

Then one night, as I closed my eyes, I saw a shadow flying high

He came to me with the sweetest smile / Told me he wanted to talk for awhile

He said, “Peter Pan. That’s what they call me. / I promise that you’ll never be lonely.”

And ever since that day…

I am a lost boy from Neverland / Usually hanging out with Peter Pan

And when we’re bored we play in the woods / Always on the run from Captain Hook

“Run, run, lost boy,” they say to me, / “Away from all of reality.”

Neverland is home to lost boys like me / And lost boys like me are free

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