“Most of the time, I’m here in Michigan, and I’m taking out the garbage every Monday.” — Bob Seger
Hey, Faves fans, I hope you’re having a fantastic Fourth of July! Actually, I hope I am, too, since I’m writing this a full week ahead of time as I’ll be on vacation by the time you read this.
Where will I be on the Fourth? As is typical for the family-road-trip style of vacation my clan is known for this time of year, I don’t really know. We may even be home by the time the fireworks fly. The only thing I’m sure of is that, between now and then, we’ll be traveling to and through Michigan — maybe even foraying into Canada for a day.
What’s in Michigan to attract such a mini-caravan of wide-eyed tourists all the way from East Central Illinois? Actually, Michigan hosts quite a few different destinations appealing to different family members, depending on their varied and individual interests — from lakes and beaches for the little ones to The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich., for old fogies like me.
Are you partial to history? Social relevance? Comedy? Music? Action? Even science-fiction? Hollywood has made a star-spangled feature film just for you.
No other holiday gets us so all-fired-up as to want to simulate massive artillery assaults
There are a few films I recall that seem to have gotten the concept right and illustrated it in fine, dramatic fashion, and I heartily recommend them for your post-July Fourth entertainment.
In fact, some of my favorite movies have similarly diverse connections to the Wolverine State. Oh, I know, it’s Independence Day weekend, and many of you may have been expecting a Faves list related to this most red, white and blue of holidays. To those who are, I can only say: Sorry. Been there, done that (although I do encourage you to check out those previous favorites among Independence Day movies, movie fireworks and patriotism in movies).
Actually, it’s that whole been-there-done-that vibe that’s propelling our family to Michigan this summer as opposed to others, like Texas, Kentucky and Tennessee, that we’ve visited in recent years. And it’s in that same spirit of adventure that I offer up the following favorite movies set in Michigan.
You may have seen one or more of them before, but did you know you were visiting Michigan when you did? Such insight is sure to provide you a whole new perspective when you, too, hit the road, at least metaphorically, for that distant haven to the north, identifiable by this one solitary signpost as:
MY FIVE FAVORITE MICHIGAN MOVIES
— “It Follows” (2014). This supernatural psychological horror film, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, follows a teenage girl (Maika Monroe) who is pursued by a relentless, shape-shifting entity after a seemingly casual sexual encounter. For a low-budget indie, this is a surprisingly effective chiller (it holds a 96 percent approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes). And it was filmed entirely in Detroit.
— “American Pie” (1999). This raunchy yet hilarious teen sex comedy — about a group of high school seniors vying to lose their virginity in fictional East Grand Falls, Mich. — is based on writer Adam Herz’s days at East Grand Rapids High School in western Michigan. While the film’s scatological humor is of the guilty-pleasure variety, especially by the time you get to its second or third sequel, even Roger Ebert was charmed by it, rating it three out of four stars and concluding that “it is not inspired, but it’s cheerful and hard-working and sometimes funny, and — here’s the important thing — it’s not mean. Its characters are sort of sweet and lovable.” That may be, but I’m still not touching any bakery goods while we’re up there.
— “The Polar Express” (2004). The first-ever all-digital capture-animation feature film, from director Robert Zemeckis, may seem entirely out of season for this list, but trust me, that magical mystery steam locomotive to the North Pole makes its key pickups in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Christmas Eve. My travels in that direction may fall on the polar opposite end of the calendar, but I’m still hoping our GPS doesn’t route us through caribou herds and over frozen lakes the way Tom Hanks’ Conductor does.
— “Hoffa” (1992). Actor-director Danny DeVito’s biographical drama stars pal Jack Nicholson as the title Teamsters leader whose disappearance remains one of this country’s most enduring enigmas to this day. The film divided critics probably as much as Jimmy Hoffa did in his time. And yeah, much of it is set in Hoffa’s old stomping grounds in and around Detroit. But no, I’m not looking to follow in his footsteps, wherever those may be ...
— “Somewhere In Time” (1980). Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer star in this haunting sci-fi romance about a playwright who becomes obsessed with a photo of a young woman at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan and time-travels through self-hypnosis back to 1912 to meet her.
BONUS: Favorite Michigan Movies I’ve Yet to See
“The House with a Clock in Its Walls” (2018) and “Grosse Pointe Blank” (1997).
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