Newton:Tale of Two Isaacs
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(May 28, 2002)
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As Newton devotes himself to the difficult and solitary path of challenging the existing view of the universe and proving his own theories on celestial movement and gravity, his young scribe Humphrey wavers between pursuing science or following his heart.
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However, I had 2 issues with the movie. One, was that a 12 year old looking boy (the younger looking boy on the video cover, who is the narrator of the story and clearly hasn't even gone through puberty since he sounds like a 10-12 year old boy- "girly" voice our kids have prior to puberty) develops a relationship (and kisses) another 12 year old looking girl. The two end up marrying, but it just seemed ridiculous to have such young characters kissing and "falling in love". In todays day of "sex sells everything", I don't see why the makers of this film needed to set before children's eyes the idea of young children kissing and supposedly marrying. As if they don't see enough inadvertent messages everywhere from commercials, magazine covers, etc telling them about the physical aspects of relationships. Granted, we are a conservative family, but I think any reputable child psychologist would agree that at 12 yrs, or even 17 yrs for that matter, (which that boy was definitely not!), children are not emotionally mature enough to handle marriage and the natural responsibilities that come with it of raising little ones themselves.
For those families with like-minded views, I wanted to make you aware of this aspect in the movie. The 2 kids do end up getting married, rather than just kissing and "moving on" to another relationship, but it's just irresponsible, in my opinion, to have such young kids acting the way twenty-somethings should. Too bad they didn't let the older Isaac Newton (who the story was supposedly about!) develop a relationship and marry!
Secondly, the makers of the film didn't really discuss in much detail what Isaac did, how he came to think about gravity, etc. They did cover it quickly, but I felt like they should have developed the story line much more fully surrounding these topics in order to help our kids remember what Isaac Newton discovered/figured out. Why not spend time showing the laws of motion in action, rather than spending 2-3 minutes on it. Why not show Isaac getting an apple dropped on his head to seal in our children's minds the strong imagery and visual association of Isaac with the discovery of gravity. Wasn't the intent of making this film to teach our children that Newton discovered gravity, developed the reflecting telescope, developed Calculus, his laws of motion, etc.? Maybe not...... but it should have been. In the end, I think my kids will remember some obscure 12 year old boy and his supposed bride, much more than the fact that Isaac Newton was a mathematical genius and all of his amazing discoveries that are still being used today.
I wouldn't spend your hard-earned money on this one.
But the content is not very good at all in my opinion. My objections are that the characters -- real people, not fictional -- are all made out to be buffoons. I can see that if it's aimed at 5 year olds, but somewhere I read it was intended for 8-13 year olds. 13 year olds should certainly be able to handle a more serious treatment. There is a lot of interesting story hinted at here, but most of it never really makes it onto the screen because the nonsense takes center stage. The story of how Edmond Halley approached Newton and asked him what kind of orbit the planets used is really interesting -- I won't tell it here, but that encounter led to the creation of the Principia, one of the most important works in the history of science, (in history of any kind!).
I'm certainly happy that they took the time and effort to tell kids about Newton (and other scientists like Galileo, Leonardo -- those done in other episodes of the same series), but it could have been done better.
I suggest, if they need to lighten up the content a little to keep the kids' interest they might used a narrator to do that and tell the story better than it was. The potential for an interesting, educational telling is there, they just failed to find it.
I'm not a professional educator and that's why I cut them some slack and went with 3 stars, but I cannot in good conscience say they did a good job. Sorry! Wish it could have been otherwise.