Frank's Faves: Scouting movies

Frank's Faves: Scouting movies

"I still remember the entire Boy Scout motto. I don't remember the serial number of my gun in the Army. I don't remember the number of my locker in school. But I remember that Boy Scout code." — Tommy Lasorda

When the story about the Boy Scouts allowing girls to join their ranks broke on the national news wire last week, my boss Jim Rossow asked those of us guys in the newsroom at the time if we'd been Scouts in our youth. I replied, "Briefly."

That's what you might call a verbal tuck and roll.

In other words, a flash of honesty offered in such a way that further elaboration isn't requested. Which means it also wasn't entirely true. I may not have lasted in the Boy Scouts long enough to achieve Eagle rank, but I was a Cub Scout long enough to make Webelos, compete in a few Pinewood Derbies and even hone my camping skills at a jamboree or two. In fact, I really don't have anything but good memories of my time in the navy blue uniform and gold kerchief.

It was the Boy Scouts in their snappy khakis that brought my Scouting career to an abrupt halt. And it really wasn't the Boy Scouts of America that did anything to drive me away; it was just one poor excuse for a Scout leader.

Ever see a TV Western from back in the mid-1960s called "Branded"? I think my old Scoutmaster must have. Every episode opened with former Chicago Cub-turned-former-TV "Rifleman" Chuck Connors being drummed out of the U.S. cavalry on a wrongful charge of cowardice. In scornful succession, his hat is yanked from his head, his epaulets are ripped from his uniform, his buttons are torn off and his saber is snapped in two. Then he is forced to walk alone and empty-handed out the front gate of the fort as it slams behind him.

In only slightly less dramatic fashion, that pretty much re-creates my Scoutmaster's response to the crime of a missing button on my Scout shirt on the first morning of my first campout as a Tenderfoot in my hometown troop. Only difference is there wasn't an accompanying drumbeat, I didn't have a saber to break over his knee, and the camp didn't have a stockade wall around it to march me out.

But my exit from the Boy Scouts was just about as swift and shameful. Which is probably why I gave Rossow the briefest of replies when he asked about my Scouting experience. One bad apple really can spoil a barrel full of good times and memories, ya know?

But I don't hold it against the Boy Scouts. I know my story is a rare bad example, and the program is a good one for the vast majority of youths who experience it. Oddly enough, though, my story sounds kind of typical of Scouting as it's often depicted in the movies.

Especially the character of the Scoutmaster. This individual is generally portrayed as either a frustrated military washout or a nerdy city geek way out of his element. And that's only if he's a legitimate Scoutmaster. He's just as likely to be a prison escapee in disguise. The one in my story? Probably a combination of all three.

Yet, for some reason, he didn't make a big enough impression on me to even recall his name all these years later, unlike these slices of Scouting, a la Hollywood, each of which deserves a special Faves merit badge as one of:


— "Moonrise Kingdom" (2012). Twelve-year-old sweethearts Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) run away from their New England town together, prompting the ensemble cast — which includes Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand — as well as Sam's Khaki Scouts troop to form a search party and go after them. Writer-director Wes Anderson serves up a warm, poignant coming-of-age comedy, while actually doing justice to the survivalist, character-building skills inherent to scouting.

— "Bushwhacked" (1995). Daniel Stern reprises his clutzy crook role from the "Home Alone" movies in an action adventure comedy that was originally conceived as a spinoff to that franchise. Not quite on the same comedic level as the first couple in that series, but still funnier than a sharp stick in the eye. On the other hand, what isn't?

— "The Wrong Guys" (1988). A group of middle-age former Cub Scouts (Louie Anderson, Richard Lewis, Richard Belzer and Tim Thomerson) get together for a reunion campout, only to be targeted by escaped convict John Goodman, who mistakes them for FBI agents. Don't be fooled by the title — the film's makers cast the right guys, just the wrong writers.

— "Follow Me, Boys!" (1966). Fred MacMurray stars in Disney's live-action salute to the Boy Scouts as a traveling saxophonist who decides to settle down in a small town and in trying to fit in, volunteers to serve as Scoutmaster of the newly formed Troop 1. With screen legends Vera Miles and Lillian Gish, and a pint-sized Kurt Russell in his first Disney film as a town troublemaker who finds his way, thanks to Scouting.

— "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" (2015). Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Joey Morgan play three scouts on the eve of their last campout who are called upon to save their town from a zombie outbreak. If there were a merit badge for such a thing, it sure would give a whole new meaning to the motto "Be Prepared," wouldn't it?

Topics (1):Film