Movie time. There was nothing that made me happier during my middle school days than movie time. I looked forward to those days when the class would be filled not with lectures or exercises but with videos, videos shown in the dark either on a TV or a retractable film screen. I saw countless educational videos in this way, videos whose names I have long forgotten. I also saw several popular movies this way: The Princess Bride, The Karate Kid, and Rocky IV. Yes, Rocky IV. The teacher said it was a good demonstration of how heart could defeat modern technology. I didn’t see that in the movie. I saw two guys beat each other up real good.
And I saw at least one unpopular or at least unknown movie in this way. This movie was The Quest. Now this Quest was not the 1996 Frank Dux/Jean-Claude Van Damme martial arts movie of the same name. Rather, it was a 1986 Australian production staring Henry Thomas (Elliot of E.T.). In this Quest (which is called Frog Dreaming in Australia), Thomas plays Cody, an American orphan in Australia who discovers and confronts an aquatic monster of Aboriginal legend in an abandoned rock quarry pond.
Now I loved The Quest when I first saw it in middle school. And I never really forgot it, but I did kind of push it to the side, out of the way of my mainstream thought patters. Recently, though, it came to mind and I decided I wanted to see it again, so I tracked it down on eBay (I had to settle for the VHS version), bought it, and watched it.
And I loved it just as much as I had when I first saw it in middle school. I loved the monster: the scenes in which the monster rises from the pond are exciting, even by today’s standards. I loved the final reveal (which I won’t spoil here); it is really clever and is the one part of the movie I’ve never forgotten. I loved the little romantic subplot; I always loved those.
What I loved even more, though, was Cody. Cody was an innocent, inventive boy. He didn’t want to cause trouble or do evil, but he did want adventure. He had a work shop in which he welded and experimented, he made a bike that rode on train tracks, he knew all sorts of facts about nature and science, he had a girl friend but he never made any untoward advances at her (in fact, he mostly ignored her), and most of all, he figured out and faced the monster. Cody, in short, was me, or at least he was just like what I imagined myself to be, what I wanted to be. I wasn’t as smart as Cody (I’m still not), but I was as innocent. I was as thoughtful. I was as adventurous. And that’s what attracted me to and kept me thinking about this movie back in middle school. I didn’t realize it then but I realize it now. I was attracted to this movie and I kept thinking about this movie because it was my movie, because Cody was me.
And that gives this movie a sweetness that just can’t be matched in any other movie (except maybe Explorers). No, The Quest is not as exciting or entertaining as many movies from that era or the modern era, but it was sweet, sweet in a way few others movies are. It was the sweet story of a brave, smart, pure, daring boy. It was my story. My story with a monster thrown in.