Astronaut, alien discover courage conquers fear

MOVIE: Planet 51; Rated PG; Sony Pictures


Your middle-schooler thinks he’s made it: he’s on the school baseball team. Now he’s rubbing elbows with some of the top jocks – the school’s “in” crowd. Soon he’s invited to all the parties and he’s got tons of friends on Facebook.

Then the “in” crowd gets ugly. Your son’s teammates turn on the bat boy, whose disability makes him the butt of their jokes. Appalled, your son keeps quiet, hoping it will die down. When instead it ratchets up, he weighs his options: defend the boy and risk losing his “cool” status or keep silent and try to ignore the boy’s obvious emotional pain. And there’s always the possibility the taunts could get re-directed toward your son.

Despite his fears, your son stands up to the bullies. They do, indeed, turn against him. But something interesting happens. He finds a brand new crowd that appreciates his bravery and welcomes him. Your son decides the “in” crowd wasn’t so appealing after all.

Sometimes, fear and courage go hand in hand. It’s a valuable lesson – one that your son, as well as the stars of Planet 51, have learned. Available this month on DVD, Planet 51 will open the way to an enlightening discussion with your kids when you watch it at home together. Then make your own “Power Shield” to reinforce the film’s positive message.

In Planet 51, teenaged Lem and his buddy, Skiff, hang out at the movies watching cheesy sci-fi flicks and dreaming of life beyond their 1950s-era world. Then an “alien” spaceship lands in Lem’s backyard and American astronaut Chuck Baker emerges. Chuck is shocked to find life on Planet 51. And the alien inhabitants are just as surprised to see him. They are also afraid – Chuck closely resembles the “monsters” portrayed in their popular science fiction movies.

Lem overcomes his fears to shelter Chuck from the military and their leader, Gen. Grawl, who wants to capture and “study” him. But the general and his soldiers are hot on their heels. They transport Chuck’s spaceship to a secret location. Chuck is impressed with Lem’s bravery, admitting that he, himself, never possessed the same kind of courage.

Eventually, Chuck is apprehended by Gen. Grawl and taken to a hidden military base in the desert. Lem, Skiff, Neera, who lives next door to Lem, and a small Earth robot named Rover track him down and sneak in to rescue him. They get to Chuck just in time, but Gen. Grawl sets off a series of bombs that will destroy the base and everyone in it. Chuck and his alien friends jump aboard the spaceship and watch as Gen. Grawl is knocked unconscious by falling debris. Risking his life, Chuck rescues the general and the spaceship takes off. Chuck later takes his friends back to Planet 51 before he heads home to Earth. Astronaut Chuck and alien Lem discover that courage can conquer fear.

Talk together

Lem’s fears keep him from pursuing some of his dreams, such as talking to Neera, the girl he likes. Think of a time when fear or shyness held you back. How did you overcome it? Who or what helped you the most?

Chuck’s big ego doesn’t stand up to the challenges he faces on Planet 51. What does he learn about himself by the time he escapes? How does Lem’s example inspire Chuck?

Play together: Power Shield

Put your fears to work with this bravery-booster!

You will need:

• Empty milk carton (gallon-sized)

• Electrical tape

• Acrylic paint & paintbrush

• Large knife

• Scissors

Use the knife to cut off the top and bottom of the milk carton. Trim sharp or jagged edges with scissors. Make sure you leave the handle intact. Place two strips of electrical tape on the front of your shield to create four squares. Inside each square, draw a picture of something that scares you. Some ideas are: spiders, diving boards, clowns or the dark. When those things frighten you, take up your shield and remember that, sometimes, courage and fear go hand in hand — but you can make sure courage wins!

Plan a family movie night this month! Check out our archives at and get some great ideas for fun with your favorite films!