My wife Kendahl grew up on the movies kids in the 90’s were supposed to grow up on: The Princess Bride, Mulan, Pocahontas, Titanic, you name it.
I, on the other hand, grew up on movies like Max Keeble’s Big Move. Starring the kid from Home Alone 3 (another movie you hopefully didn’t see), the movie also stars Drake & Josh’s Josh Peck and features an aloof principle stating what became an oft-quoted line in the Cambridge household: “I don’t encourage horseplay; I excourage it.”
I’m pretty sure the movies I was raised watching aren’t the movies kids are supposed to grow up on. Not in an inappropriate way, but in an are-you-sure-you-rented-the-right-movie kind of way. I grew up watching a movie you’ve probably never heard of called Angels in the Endzone. Reread that last word; I’m not referring to the Danny Glover baseball classic. In this spinoff, which I can only assume was made with a budget of $45,000, there’s a goofy assistant coach who is constantly holding a Blow Pop sucker and eating popcorn. In a perfectly quirky moment, the head coach asks him about a player’s forty-yard dash time. The assistant responds, “Uh, seven minutes, sir. He got lost.”
So many of these movies have contributed to the great soundtrack of my family. There was Drumline, which I’ll defend to my grave, and Guess Who, which I’ve seen probably fifteen times. There was the underrated Will Ferrell flick Kicking and Screaming, which I still show to friends whenever I can. “I am like a tornado of anger,” I have quoted in so many different settings when I wanted to get a quick laugh, “my heart rate is dangerously high right now.” I’m honestly not even ashamed of that movie; football’s Mike Ditka stars, along with Robert Duvall and a young Josh Hutcherson. There were all the Christopher Guest mockumentaries, most notably Best in Show. The best scene of that movie is when Guest sits in his car naming all of the different kinds of nuts. Mention that scene to my dad and you will be treated to a classic Ed Cambridge laugh.
I grew up a huge fan of Weird Al Yankovic, so when my family got our hands on the 1989 movie UHF, we watched it until we had large portions memorized. In retrospect (though we knew it at the time), the movie is absurd and unwatchable. In one scene, a blind man is working on a Rubik’s cube on a park bench sitting next to a homeless man. The blind man moves the cube a few times, shows it to the homeless man, and asks, “Is this it?”
The crown jewel of television in my family was the Disney Channel television show Even Stevens. Ask my parents about this show and to this day they’ll say, “That show could have been on prime time!” This show was and will always be the peak of LaBeouf’s career, with “Just Do It” a close second, Disturbia third, and the “I Am Not Famous Anymore” gag in 73,456th place. The best episode of the show’s three seasons was entitled “Little Mr. Sacktown,” where Beans (played by Steven Anthony Lawrence) has to perform in a pageant with Louis coaching and living vicariously through the experience. A real part of the episode’s tension is whether or not Beans will answer the question “If a magical genie could grant you one wish, what would it be?” by saying “bacon.” Beans locks up second place in the competition by performing the song “Polly Wolly Doodle” with armpit farts. Even Stevens is still quoted at least once every time I see my family.
Sometimes I think about the fact that there’s a lot of movies I never saw that I should have, or feel that my childhood is somehow incomplete because I didn’t consume the “right” kind of television. But then I consider the many hours of laughs I’ve shared with my family over these ridiculous cinematic moments, how they’ve drawn us together at the dinner table and provided giggles when we needed them. I think about Nick Cannon’s epic drum solos, Ashton Kutcher teaching Bernie Mac how to dance the salsa, and the epic adventures of Louis Stevens, and realize I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Matt Cambridge (’12) is a new dad to Chloe, husband to the beautiful Kendahl, and a human resources professional at Boeing. He lives in St. Louis and enjoys eating Hershey’s kisses, riding roller coasters, and watching the latest stand-up specials on Netflix. You can read more of his work at laughcrythink.com.