U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #94
June 24, 2009
The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler + Art in Your City
The deliciously taboo notion that kids could stowaway in a museum for a week, without their parents, thrilled our children as much as it thrilled us a generation ago. In The Hideaways, a film based on our favorite childhood novel “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” Claudia and her younger brother Jamie pool their savings ($25.68), pack extra clothes in a violin case and take up residence in Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art. While hiding out, they become captivated with a statue of an angel created by an unknown artist. Eventually, the children discover the statue is an original Michelangelo and befriend Mrs. Frankweiler, the statue’s eccentric benefactress.
As mothers, we were captivated by E.L. Koenigsberg’s clever weaving of art appreciation into a subversive plot. Our first instinct, to fly to New York and tour the Met, got our creative juices flowing. Jazzed by our kids' newfound interest in museums, we decided to duplicate the idea at home. We headed to a local art museum and gave our children a mission: to figure out the logistics of life without adults – where to eat, sleep, bathe and hide – just like the characters in the story. The kids searched for a place to sleep and quickly discovered antique canopied beds (blue for the boys and pink for the girls). Energized, they kept exploring and soon happened upon ornate silver bowls for their Cheerios, a plethora of fountains for bathing, and even scoped out an antique disco ball for a midnight party. Without once complaining that they were being dragged through a bunch of dusty rooms filled with boring stuff, our kids enjoyed the museum’s collections. We were amazed at how easily they connected the dots between the movie and the museum adventure. The afternoon has become magically inscribed in our families’ memories as the original Kids Off the Couch adventure.
Film Title: The Hideaways
Directed By: Fielder Cook
1973, Rated G, 105 minutes
Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:
- Why This Film is Worth It: Our children were riveted by Claudia and Jamie's daring adventure, in part because they loved the book from which this seventies adaptation is based. "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler", by E.L. Koenigsberg was written in 1967, but still tops most kids' book lists. We heartily recommend that you read it outloud with your family. This film is fine for anyone over six.
- Rental Tip: Don't rent the 1995 version which, despite a star turn by Lauren Bacall, is not as good as this oldie. As one Amazon reviewer noted of The Hideaways, "it's old, but cool." Netflix doesn't carry The Hideaways, but it's available for purchase on Amazon, and can be found in specialty video stores.
Our tips for talking to your kids about this film:
- Cinema Savvy: This film was made in the early seventies. Note the hair and clothing styles, the soundtrack and the period wallpaper. Have the kids shout out details that show when the story takes place. Then, have them guess which of their favorite things might still be around in thirty years
- Literature Savvy: This story, about two children surviving on their own in New York City, sounds scary. Yet, this story isn’t frightening at all. Ask the kids to guess who is telling the story and how it might have been different if it had been told from someone else's point of view. For example, if the story had been told from the parents’ perspective, we would have seen them worrying at home and the story would have been a lot less interesting.