FILMS FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY
ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS (1940). Raymond Massey plays the great emancipator from log cabin days to his departure to Washington, D.C. as the 16th President. Don’t miss it!
THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER (1938). Tommy Kelly. Best version of the Mark Twain novel.
AKEELAH AND THE BEE (2006). Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer) is a precocious 11-year-old from south Los Angeles with a gift for words. Despite the objections of her mother (Angela Bassett), Akeelah enters various spelling contests, for which she is tutored by the forthright Dr. Larabee (Laurence Fishburne), her principal, Mr. Welch (Curtis Armstrong) and the proud residents of her neighborhood. Akeelah’s aptitude earns her an opportunity to compete for a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee and in turn unites her neighborhood, which witnesses the courage and inspiration of one amazing little girl. Smartly written, uplifting and charming, it’s a great film that reminds viewers of the obligation we have concerning the maintenance of language. The film has several positive messages, including caring and sacrificing for others. It also reminds each of us that while there are dark valleys we must go through on our travels through life, green pastures also lie ahead. PG (2 uses of the s-word and four or five minor expletives. Two bullies beat Akeelah, but she is not injured; both Akeelah and her mentor have lost loved ones: her father to a stray bullet, his son to sickness; there are dramatic discussions concerning these deaths, but they are designed to help heal kids dealing with similar tragedies). Use TVG
AMERICA’S HEART AND SOUL (2004). Filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg packed up his camera and hit the road, with a goal of capturing both the unparalleled beauty of the U.S. and the incomparable spirit of its people. Here you have the chance to meet ordinary Americans with extraordinary stories. Schwartzberg’s gift is his ability to connect with people, honestly capturing their values, dreams, and passion. AMERICA’S HEART AND SOUL is a celebration of a nation told through the voices of its people.
ANNE OF AVONLEA (1987). Engaging sequel to ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.
ANNE OF THE GREEN GABLES (1985). A superb castheaded by Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth and Megan Follows. One of the few instances where the film lives up to the quality of the book.
BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE (2005). Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Dave Matthews, Eva Marie Saint, AnnaSophia Robb. A lonely 10-year-old, abandoned by her mother and ignored by her grieving minister father, prays for a friend. Soon after, an energetic stray pooch scampers his way into the little girl’s heart while she shops for macaroni and cheese at the local Winn-Dixie. As the two bond, she finds that they are having a positive effect on the friendless and disenfranchised in her small, rural community. Despite the low budget and occasional klutzy comedy, BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE develops into a well-told story about a child’s coping with her mother’s desertion. Without being preachy, it addresses poignant themes, including reaching out to others and how small thoughtfulness can alter a life. What’s more, it achieves these goals while never neglecting its aim of amusing the child in all of us. Certainly not as layered or flavorful as TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as a movie that examines childhood experiences, nor in the league with MY DOG SKIP for pure enjoyment value, but it is a satisfying children’s film, clean, respectful of Christian values (there’s even a reverent prayer that acknowledges our Lord), and full of life lessons, sentiment and laughs (though admittedly aimed mostly at kid viewers). Oh, by the way, do you have a dog? If not, expect to hear, “Daddy, can we…”(PG) Use TVG
BEYOND THE GATES OF SPLENDOR (2005). Based on a best-selling novel, the documentary catches the spirit of people who trust so much in God that they are willing to sacrifice their lives in order to follow His will. BEYOND THE GATES OF SPLENDOR is a moving testament to those who have taken Christ’s teachings to heart and given all in order to save the soul of man. It is an emotional journey that will give you new insight concerning foreign missions and a deepening respect for missionaries. You’ll be entertained and challenged. PG-13 (occasional topless native nudity, but nothing is done with an exploitive intent; the subject matter of people facing death is unsuitable for little ones).
THE BIG COUNTRY (1958). Gregory Peck. Western epic about a sea captain who comes west to marry. Soon he finds himself embroiled in a range war. Great supporting cast including Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, Charles Bickford, Carroll Baker, Chuck Connors and Burl Ives (winner, Best Supporting Actor).
BOLT (2008). The most creative film since WALL•E, Bolt is sometimes touching, often hysterical and always mesmerizing. The film opens with a great chase, ala James Bond only better. Where the opening sequence for QUANTUM OF SOLACE was muddled by extreme closeups and quick cutting, Bolt’s adroit draftsmanship immediately draws us into the chase as if we were a part of the action. The scene encourages those who have attended merely to please offspring that maybe, just maybe, they are going to be entertained, as well. And they are, for the writers and artists have embraced moviegoers of all ages with this animated girl-and-her-movie-star-dog-who-thinks-he-hasreal-superpowers adventure. Every detail has been given loving and experienced detailing, from the animation to the film’s score, to the directorial pacing. Disney has once again given us the perfect family film. And the pigeons. They’re the new penguins! (PG – for the action sequences.) BORN FREE (1966). Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers. Family fare about Kenya game wardens and their pet lioness, Elsa.
THE BOY WITH GREEN HAIR (1948). Dean Stockwell, Pat O’Brien. A fable about a war orphan who becomes an outcast when his hair turns green. Although when made, the film spoke of European children whose parents were killed in the war, today’s audience gets a poignant message about the discrimination children with AIDS must face. (As of this writing, it is not yet on DVD.)
BUGSY MALONE (1976). Rated G. A spoof on 1930s gangster movies with a pre-teen cast that includes Scott Baio and Jodie Foster. Some good songs by Paul Williams, and all the machine guns shoot custard.
CABIN IN THE SKY (1943). Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson. Musical comedy. Fable about faith and devotion. Ingratiating performance by Waters, and several moving musical numbers, including “Taking a Chance on Love” and “Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe.”
CARS (2006). Voices: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy. Rated G. Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson), a hotshot rookie race car driven to succeed, discovers that life is about the journey, not the finish line, when he finds himself unexpectedly detoured in the sleepy Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. With brilliant digital cartooning and masterful voicing by its gifted cast, this skillfully retooled DOC HOLLYWOOD is a surefire winner for the whole family. Funny, yet subtly poignant, this action comedy teaches life lessons to kids while tickling the funny bone of each family member.
CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS (1937). Spencer Tracy, Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, Mickey Rooney, John Carradine, Melvyn Douglas. Adventure. Top-drawer version of the Kipling story of a boy who becomes a man on a seafaring fishing ship. Tracy won Best Actor Oscar for his textured performance as a Portuguese fisherman.
CHICKEN RUN (2000). From the people who gave us the “Wallace and Gromit” shorts comes a claymation comedy set at a chicken farm where a flock of hens is determined to fly the coop before meeting a fowl fate. The expressive faces (chickens with teeth – is that great?), the pacing, adventure and witty dialogue make for a fun family film.
CINDERFELLA (1960). Jerry Lewis, Ed Wynn. Spoof. If Jerry gets on your nerves, definitely pass on this one, but there are some very funny moments (notably when Jerry descends the stairs in the party scene).
DAVID COPPERFIELD (1935). Freddie Bartholomew, W. C. Fields, Lionel Barrymore. Super production of Dickens’ tale of young man’s adventures in 19th-century England.
DESPICABLE ME (2010). Mr. Gru, an “evil” genius, lives fairly unnoticed in a happy suburban neighborhood. It’s time, however, to prove once again just how despicable the villainous mastermind can be. So, he plots to steal the moon! But our world and the moon are saved when three orphaned girls turn his world upside down. The story, the dialogue, the voice characterizations and the humor manage to hold the attention of not just little ones, but their accompanying older companions as well. (PG)
EARTH (2009). Narrated by James Earl Jones, this fascinating documentary tells the remarkable story of three animal families and their journeys across this planet we share. For older children, this is a perfect introduction to the wondrous mysteries of life. For adults it can be a reminder that God is sovereign and beyond our mortal understanding. G (depictions of animal killings by other animals; just before they become gory, the scene ends; a little blood is seen coming from the head of a walrus just attacked by a starving polar bear).
ELF (2003). This is a sumptuous blend of sight gags and witty dialogue. Along with one of the funniest performances I’ve seen this year, ELF’s main ingredient is charm. It contains the same enchantment found in A CHRISTMAS STORY, that annual chestnut about a boy who wants an official Red Ryder Range Model 200 Air Rifle for Christmas. The filmmakers are reminding tinsel hangers of the magic found in family. There’s a nice message about fathers and sons connecting. And of course, the Scrooge-like father discovers what’s really valuable. But it’s not a message film. It’s a forget-your-troubles film.
THE ENDLESS SUMMER (1966). Not rated, there are a few cuss words (which TVGuardian will remove). This two-disc set of Bruce Brown’s seminal surf documentary concerns the lengths two men will go to in order to chase the perfect wave. It’s pretty good. Use TVG
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER (2007). Marvel’s first family of superheroes returns, perhaps to redeem themselves for the 2005 installment almost as much as to cash in on the comic book genre. Director Tim Story’s first attempt at bringing the blue-suited super-crime fighters to the silver screen was uneven. It had some humor, but the special effects were so-so and the dialogue less than. Due to sloppy writing, that production had little heart. The heroes didn’t seem to do much for others, the story constrained to their own desires to return to normalcy. Surly, narcissistic and charmless, the foursome was not so fantastic. All that has changed. The effects here are as good as I’ve seen. And the pacing, the humor, the action, and even the dialogue are superior not just to the first installment, but to many action/adventure wannabes. Quite simply, 2 is Fantastic!
FOR ALL MANKIND (1989). Rated G. Documentary the whole family can view. A beautifully made film about Neil Armstrong’s flight to the moon.
FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956). Walter Pidgeon, Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis. Intelligent sci-fi film about space explorers landing on a planet ruled by one man and an evil force. Plot derived from Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST.
THE GIRL WHO SPELLED FREEDOM (1986). Wayne Rodgers and Mary Kay Place star in this made-for-TV story of a Christian family who take in a Cambodian refugee. Not only does the teenager learn English, but she goes on to win a national spelling bee. Theme: With love and perseverance anything is possible. Strong performances and a literate script make this a pleasure for kids and adults. (Hard to find, but worth the effort.)
THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963). All-star cast includes Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Richard Attenborough and James Garner. Splendid wartime drama of men set to escape a Nazi P.O.W. camp. Based on a true story. Entertaining script, cast and musical score.
THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965). Max Von Sydow heads all-star cast, and although the story of Christ can’t be topped, this film version can. It’s okay, but for a superior effort try Jesus of Nazareth. (Well, here’s a first: a video alternative for a video alternative!)
HARRIET THE SPY (1996). Michelle Trachtenberg, Rosie O’Donnell. PG (a couple of mild expletives, but no profanity; when her friends act cruelly, our heroine extracts revenge, but she quickly learns how destructive vengeance can be to oneself; teen attitude, but she loves her family and learns life lessons). An inventive 6th grader learns life lessons from her Mary Poppins-like nanny. An enchanting look into the world of children and how they see life. Positive messages including responsibility, compassion, using your imagination, growing up, and the fruitlessness of revenge. One of the most entertaining children’s films I have ever seen. Some attitude toward her parents, but when lessons are learned, it becomes obvious that there is a great family relationship. It does not condescend to children, nor does it ignore the adult audience. Contains a jazzy score, amusing dialogue and situations, plus pleasing performances.
HARVEY (1950). James Stewart, Josephine Hull (Best Actress Oscar), Cecil Kellaway, Jesse White. Comedy. A gentle soul by the name of Elwood P. Dowd likes everybody–including his invisible six-foot rabbit, Harvey. Very funny and very touching.
HELLFIGHTERS (1969). John Wayne, Katherine Ross, Jim Hutton, Vera Miles. Based on the work of oil-well fighter Red Adair (who served as technical adviser).
HOODWINKED (2005). It’s the story of Little Red Riding Hood, with several of the main characters giving various accounts to the police – kind of a Rashomon for kids, if you will. Witty, song-filled, it is a funny film parents will enjoy with the little ones. PG (There are a couple of jolting scenes with the wolf scaring Red and there are a few perilous situations, but the filmmakers handle these scenes with sensitivity and humor. That said, parents should view with little ones in order to reassure in case something alarms them.)
ICE AGE (2002). A sloth named Sid befriends Manfred, a woolly mammoth. As they travel to warmer regions, they come upon a human baby who has been separated from his family. Moved by the infant’s helplessness, our heroes decide to find his family. They are joined by Diego, a sinister saber-toothed tiger who befriends Sid and Manny, all the while planning to set them up for a deadly ambush. This action-filled comedy has tons of heart. Life lessons: the importance of family and friendship; self-sacrifice; laying down one’s life for others; caring for potential enemies. (PG)
INKHEART (2009). – Action fantasy – PG – Brendan Fraser. Based on the best-selling book by Cornelia Funke, INKHEART is a fantasy adventure that sends a father and daughter on a quest through worlds both real and imagined.
INN OF THE 6TH HAPPINESS (1958). Ingrid Bergman. Based on a true story of a missionary who leads a group of children on a perilous journey in pre-WWII China. Contains the most moving conversion I’ve seen in the movies, as we witness change in a man’s life due to this courageous woman’s example. It reminds the Christian viewer that our lifestyle does greatly affect others.
IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963). The all-star cast includes Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney and many others. A non-stop laugh-a-thon as a group of motorists learn of a fortune buried 200 miles away. Rated G and certainly one of the funniest movies ever made. Now available in a wide-screen format, including newly restored sequences and interviews with the director and several of the cast members.
KEN BURNS’ THE CIVIL WAR (1989). Made as a PBS miniseries, this documentary shows what television can achieve. One of the best made, most informative, and most spiritually touching works of art I have ever witnessed on TV. It should be mandatory viewing for every high school student.
KING KONG (1933). Fay Wray. An impressive beauty and the beast study with effective special effects. Take a pass on the bloated and profane 1976 and 2005 remakes.
KING OF KINGS (1961). Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus. Allstar cast also includes Robert Ryan, Rip Torn and narration by Orson Welles. Another Hollywood attempt at presenting the greatest story ever told nearly falls flat. Still, it has its moments and beautiful musical score. Zeffirelli’s epic JESUS OF NAZARETH is far better. I was also extremely moved by THE ROBE because rather than seeing an actor playing the Christ, we merely witness Him through His effect on the lives of others. BEN HUR catches that same quality.
MADAGASCAR (2005). DreamWorks comic computer animation with the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith. Four pampered zoo animals escape and explore the world, but soon find themselves captured and sent to Africa. A clever, witty tale, containing a subtle lesson about appreciating what you have. I found MADAGASCAR to be stylish, engrossing and very funny. PG (there are a couple of mild innuendos meant for adults, but generally the content is mild; the animals get into some perilous situations, but the filmmakers are sensitive to little viewers and never assault the senses; there are positive messages regarding friendship and appreciating what you have).
MEGAMIND (2010). Megamind is the most brilliant super-villain the world has ever known…and the least successful. It doesn’t have that indefinable charisma of, say, UP or Wall-E, or even Bolt, but Megamind is downright fun. There are enough visual and verbal jokes to keep older audience members’ attention and kids seemed glued to the screen. I’m pleased that the film avoids crudity and there are positive themes. Not quite as enjoyable as Despicable Me (the best animated film of the year so far), but the look, its energy and the attention to witty dialogue made it an enjoyable movie outing for parents and little ones, and not too painful for teens to sit through with their younger siblings (well, I admit, I’m guessing there). PG (for some minor expletives, but I caught no harsh or profane language; “Oh God” is uttered by the villain one time; there’s lots of comic book action, but with a comic twist, much like the old Warner Bros. cartoons).
MAD HOT BALLROOM (2005). This is a light-hearted documentary concerning likeable New York fifth graders who are given a free course in dance as part of their school curriculum. Funny, insightful and completely engaging, these kids gain direction and confidence as they learn the merengue, tango and swing dance steps. There’s an innocent wisdom that generates from many of these kids. We also experience the pain of those who learn for the first time about disappointment (“But we did everything they told us to do”). PG (a couple of conversations concern children having to be vigilant of sexual predators).
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960). Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach. Derived from the Kurosawa eastern THE SEVEN SAMURAI, about seven gunmen defending a poor village against bandits. Every part perfectly cast, and Elmer Bernstein’s music is outstanding.
THE MAN WHO COULD WORK MIRACLES (1936). Roland Young. Fantasy of a meek man who’s given the power to do miracles. An engaging satire.
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS (2005). A fascinating documentary about penguins, raw nature and survival, it’s full of impressive, almost unworldly locations and amazing cinematography, and most important, it sends a powerful message concerning the importance of life. In a time when audiences are subjected to pro messages concerning euthanasia (MILLION DOLLAR BABY, THE SEA INSIDE), the need for abortion (VERA DRAKE), and desensitizing images of violence toward our fellow man (most films), here is a movie that reveals creatures in the wild sacrificing all in order to preserve life.
THE MARX BROTHERS: IN A NUTSHELL (1982). Compilation of their best routines. 100 minutes of madness. Not to be missed! Distributed by Vestron Video. Gene Kelly narrates, with remembrances by Dick Cavett, Robert Klein, George Fenneman and family members.
THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940). Tyrone Power, Basil Rathbone, Linda Darnell. Witty dialogue and great swordplay enhance this tale of a vigilante who rights wrongs in old California. Hey, Don Diego–where are you when we really need you!?
MEET THE ROBINSONS (2007). Lewis is an orphan, a creative 12-year-old inventor who dreams of finding a family. His journey takes an unexpected turn when a mysterious stranger named Wilbur Robinson whisks him away to a world where anything is possible…THE FUTURE. There, he meets an incredible assortment of characters and a family beyond his wildest imagination, the Robinsons, who help lead him on an amazing and hilarious adventure with heartfelt results. But while Lewis is experiencing the joy of family, he is also being perused by the dastardly Bowler Hat Guy, a villain bent on possessing one of Lewis’s latest inventions – the Memory Scanner. I felt good when I left the theater. I had just seen a family film that had more on its mind than being rated G. I sensed the filmmakers were having a blast making this film and that they wanted to go the extra mile. They succeeded. Quite simply put, MEET THE ROBINSONS is a winner for the entire family.
THE MOUSE THAT ROARED (1959). Peter Sellers. English satire concerning small country declaring war on U.S. in order to get federal relief from America. (It must be mandatory viewing for Third-World dictators.)
MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (1948). Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas. Spoof concerning the American dream of building your own home.
MR. HOBBS TAKES A VACATION (1963). Roger Hobbs (James Stewart) takes a vacation with the family. A lot more humor and warmth than all the National Lampoon films combined.
MUSIC OF THE HEART (1999). Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Aidan Quinn, Cloris Leachman. Newly divorced Roberta Guaspai (Meryl Streep) began teaching the violin to students of an East Harlem school. At first, the kids, the parents, and the principal were skeptical. Soon, however, her passion became infectious. But where would a film like this be, if the school board didn’t eventually cut her funding? Not wanting the kids to lose out on this opportunity, Guaspai fought back to preserve this class. With the support of her friends and the community, plus a little help from Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman and Arnold Steinhardt, the real-life Guaspai and her students raised money to continue the music program by performing at – Carnegie Hall! Yes, it could justly be called MRS. HOLLAND’S OPUS, due to its similarities to the Richard Dreyfuss vehicle, but the film, nonetheless, is most entertaining. Its strength lies in Ms. Streep’s performance and several positive messages it conveys, including examples of compassion and understanding between races and not giving up when things get difficult. Although the film suggests that the lead lived with a man outside marriage after her husband abandoned her, there are no sex scenes. The film does not focus on a romance, but on her determination to provide for her children and to help her students. PG (five or six expletives, and several uses of the expression “Oh my God;” an implied sexual situation; the lead has a glass of wine in one scene and a drink in another).
MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946). Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Walter Brennan. Full of John Ford details and the descriptive photography of Joseph P. MacDonald, this is a superb telling of the legend of Wyatt Earp and the O.K. Corral.
MY DOG SKIP (2002). Drawn from Willie Morris’s bestselling memoir, MY DOG SKIP is a coming-of-age tale that looks back on how a terrier pup helped a shy boy, bullied by schoolmates and strictly handled by an aloof father, come to grips with loneliness. Young Frankie Muniz as the film’s junior protagonist is never cutesy or precocious, but rather down-to-earth. It is replete with lessons in friendship, loneliness, and death. And that dog; he could give Snoopy charm lessons! (PG) Use TVG
NATIONAL TREASURE (2004). Sci-action starring Nicolas Cage – PG – a few minor expletives, but I caught no harsh or profane language; the film receives its rating mostly for the tense situations and some violence. The violence includes guns shooting, chase scenes, and our heroes placed in perilous predicaments, but all this activity is handled with Disney discretion.
NATIONAL VELVET (1945). Family drama about a young girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to compete in the English Grand National Steeplechase. Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney.
NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS (1958). Andy Griffith, Don Knotts. Want a really good laugh? This is full of them. Andy’s a country boy drafted into the army. Myron McCormick as the frustrated sergeant is outstanding.
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963). Jerry Lewis in top form as the lovable Professor Julius Kept and his alter ego, Buddy Love. A comic version of Jekyll & Hyde with Lewis providing some of his greatest sight gags. (Caution: contains one scary scene where the kindly professor transforms into a beast before becoming Buddy Love). Though Eddie Murphy’s remake is funny, it derives much of its humor from crude bodily functions and sexuality.
OCEANS (2009). Disneynature, the studio that presented the record-breaking film EARTH, brings OCEANS to the big screen on Earth Day, 2010. Nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, and Oceans boldly chronicles the mysteries that lie beneath. (G)
OCTOBER SKY (1999). Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern. True story of a 1950s West Virginia youth and his determination to be a part of the space program, despite his apathetic coal-miner father’s objections. Although a bit formulaic, OCTOBER SKY dazzles the soul with its positive messages of the importance of believing in yourself and having others who also believe in you. Outstanding performance by young Gyllenhaal. Opening imagery/cinematography artfully sets the mood and lifestyle of those living in a coal-mining community. Three dimensional characters, honor, responsibility are each paid tribute. The family prays together at mealtime. PG (two profanities and several mild obscenities sprinkled throughout; a drunk parent beats his son until another parent intercedes; intense father-son dispute; frightening moments as men are injured in a mine accident; the death of a close friend is sensitively handled).
OF HUMAN HEARTS (1938). Walter Huston, James Stewart. Wayward boy learns to appreciate his religious folks once he grows up and becomes a physician during the Civil War. Not outstanding, but worth watching.
PAST THE BLEACHERS (1995 Made-For-TV). Hallmark Home Entertainment. Richard Dean Anderson. Not rated, I found nothing objectionable. Dealing with the loss of his son, a grieving man coaches a grade school baseball team. Genuine messages, including dealing with the loss of a loved one.
PAT & MIKE (1952). Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn. Sports manager falls for female athlete in this Ruth Gordon/Garson Kanin war of the sexes comedy. It’s “cherce.” Contains first screen appearance of Charles Buchinski (Bronson).
PAUL BLART: MALL COP (2009). Kevin James stars as a single, suburban dad who tries to make ends meet as a security officer at a New Jersey mall. It’s a job he takes very seriously, though no one else does. When Santa’s helpers at the mall stage a coup, shutting down the megaplex and taking hostages (Paul’s daughter and sweetheart among them), Jersey’s most formidable mall cop will have to become a real cop to save the day. PG (some name-calling by the bad guys and a few fat jokes, but mostly the filmmakers are family-friendly; I caught one obscenity (the s-word), not from the lead; a couple of expletives from other characters; two “oh my Gods” but no other misuse of God’s name; some pratfalls and the lead comes up against thieves at the mall and must out think them; a couple of fights and some gun shooting; hostages are held; but the action is not overly graphic; that said, parents should be there with little ones in case the need for reassurance arises; Paul is a lonely single parent (his wife ran off, leaving him and his daughter), and the family tries to get him to find a lady with an online dating service; he falls for an employee at the mall; one kiss, no sexual situations; though he doesn’t drink, Paul accidentally gets drunk at a party and behaves like a klutz, and later winds up with a huge tattoo; the film doesn’t promote drinking, but rather shows the negative consequences of overindulgence).
THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987). Mandy Patinkin, Peter Falk, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright. PG (caution: does contain a couple profanities, sorcery and some violence). Fairy tale of lovers separated by the bad guys. Bewitching, but beware, it does have a few obscenities which were totally out of place.
RACING STRIPES (2005). Bruce Greenwood, Hayden Panettiere, and the voices of Frankie Muniz, Dustin Hoffman, Whoopi Goldberg, Joe Pantoliano, Jeff Foxworthy and Snoop Dogg. A widowed rancher finds a lost zebra colt one cold and rainy night. Giving the animal shelter in his barn seems like the right thing to do. But no good deed goes unpunished. When his perky teenaged daughter spots the adorable striped yearling, it’s love at first sight. “Can we keep him? Please, Dad!” This Warner Bros. comedy adventure may begin from a human perspective, but as soon as man and girl exit the barn, the shelter comes alive with talking animals, each trying to figure out what this strangelooking beast is. Even the newly dubbed Stripes doesn’t know what he is. But with four legs and a mane and tail, well, he must be a horse. But what kind of horse? The following day our four-legged protagonist spots a racetrack and meets two thoroughbred colts. They know who they are – they will one day be racehorses. That sounds pretty good to Stripes. If they are racehorses, then he must be, as well. NATIONAL VELVET it’s not. Nor BLACK BEAUTY. Nor CHICKEN RUN, for that matter. But the film, like the zebra who stars, has a lot of heart. Would it be my first choice for a film outing on a Friday night? No. But I wasn’t the intended audience. This one belongs to those who believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the suggestion that a zebra could outrun a trained thoroughbred. Caution: It is rated PG (there are a couple of sexual innuendos that will no doubt go over the heads of the littlest audience members, a few flatulence jokes, and some barnyard poop humor, but overall it’s a satisfying kids’ movie, one filled with positive messages).
THE ROAD PICTURES. Hope & Crosby’s THE ROAD TO SINGAPORE, ZANZIBAR, MOROCCO, UTOPIA, RIO, BALI, and HONG KONG are all available on DVD. The boys get around, and always seem to run into Dorothy Lamour. Each contains enough slapstick to keep the kids interested and enough droll one-liners to put adults in stitches. MOROCCO is my fav.
THE ROBE (1953). The Special Edition DVD release of this powerful 1953 sword, sandal and Christ epic (renown for being the first film shot in CinemaScope, a widescreen attempt to lure people away from that new home entertainment system – television) is now available and worth having in your home movie library. Based on the Lloyd C. Douglas novel, the episodic costume drama concerns a Roman centurion who wins Christ’s robe in a dice game. Soon his life, and that of his slave, are changed as they discover Jesus to be the Savior of the world. We see Jesus through the use of long shots and camera angles that focus the attention not on an actor portraying Christ, but on the people who came into His presence. This method was effectively used in Ben Hur as well, giving both productions a great dignity. Richard Burton was nominated for an Oscar, but Victor Mature steals the picture with a moving performance as the converted slave, Demetrius. The depiction of the early church and the life-changing power of our Lord make this film worth viewing. The Special Edition contains several bonus features, including a “Making Of” featurette and a most interesting commentary track that focuses on the contribution of Alfred Newman, the film’s composer. As for the “Making Of” featurette, those involved seemed more inclined to the political dynamic of the filmmakers than the spiritual significance of the book’s author. Lloyd C. Douglas, a former minister who generally put religious significance in his stories, is more or less dismissed by the commentators. They are determined to equate the struggles of the early Church with ‘50s McCarthyism. More insight is given to communist sympathizers than to those who endured imprisonment and death because of this new religion, Christianity. But remember this when listening to those featured in the provocative, though myopic featurette: The Robe was the 4th highest grossing film of that decade. People weren’t sitting in the theater thinking, “Gee, this is about blacklisting.” Moviegoers were being moved by the life-changing power of the Man from Galilee. Not rated, the film contains several battle sequences and mature themes. However, governed by the then Motion Picture Code, the studio presented this adult subject matter with taste and discretion, two words seldom applied to today’s movie-making procedure.
THE ROCKETEER (1991). Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Paul Sorvino, Timothy Dalton. Action/adventure – PG (4 or 5 expletives and comic-book action). A rocket pack attached to any hearty young daredevil’s back will cause him to fly. It’s 1938 and, of course, the Nazis want such a device. Enter the Rocketeer, who must defend the American way of life by preventing the Germans from gaining possession of the rocket. Not great, but fun. Use TVG
ROCKY (1976). Forget the sequels, but the original was quite powerful. Won Best Picture that year. (PG) Use TVG
THE ROOKIE (2002). Based on the true story of an aging ball player who came to astound scouts with successive 98- mph fast balls, this is the best baseball film I have ever seen. Involving storytelling, tight direction, witty dialogue, an outstanding lead performance, beautiful cinematography, and a toe-tapping score – it’s all there. Top that off with the subtle implication that the main character is a person of faith (in real life, Jim Morris is a dedicated Christian), and Disney scores with a film that not only entertains, but nourishes as well. First-time director John Lee Hancock (producer of MY DOG SKIP) hits a home run by including an element found in the works of past masters like Ford and Capra – the awareness that movies are not just about showing what we are, but also about what we can become. A stirring film for the whole family. (G)
THE SANDLOT (1993). Kid’s comedy – PG (a few mild expletives, one graphic scene where the kids get sick after chewing tobacco). The new boy in town struggles to become a member of the neighborhood baseball team. A pleasure to view. Use TVG
THE SEA HAWK (1940). Errol Flynn. The old swashbuckler at his best as he battles the Spanish Armada.
THE SECRET GARDEN (1993). Kate Maberly, Maggie Smith, Heydon Prowse. The 1949 version with Margaret O’Brien and the 1987 British version with Gennie James are both 4-star productions.
1776 (1972). William Daniels, Howard DaSilva. Historical musical/drama. The beginning of the American Revolution set to music. Inspiring as well as entertaining. (Caution: contains a few expletives and the phrase “By God” is used several times. But it is also evident that these men respected the Creator.) Use TVG
THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965). Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer. Oscar-winning film based on the lives of the Von Trapps, a talented musical family, with the children seeking their distant father’s love.
SOUNDER (1972). Paul Winfield, Cicely Tyson, Keven Hooks. Rated G. Stirring story of a black sharecropper’s family during the Depression. Nominated for best picture that year along with the lead actors. Truly marvelous.
STAR KID (1998). Joseph Mazzello. PG (a few mild expletives, but no profanity other than a couple “Oh my gods”; some mild bathroom humor; a bully threatens our young hero and even beats him up, but later they become friends; the older sister is rather hostel to her sibling, but again, when danger threatens the family pulls together; the sci-fi violence is tame for older kids, but may be a little intense for toddlers). The new kid on the block is taught to face his fears, first by his teacher after the school bully picks on him; then by a space robot who comes to Earth to do combat with an unfriendly alien. The mechanical being can function only with the aid of a life force inside him, so without much convincing, the boy climbs inside, causing innocent havoc in the neighborhood before facing the enemy from outer space. A fairly clean film with life lessons, humor and enough action to keep 8- to 12-year-olds amused. I confess, I enjoyed it myself. Use TVG
STARS IN MY CROWN (1950). Joel McCrea. Uplifting drama. After the Civil War, a minister attempts to tame a western town. Heartwarming.
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF (1969). James Garner, Walter Brennan, Joan Hackett, Jack Elam, Bruce Dern. Rated G. Very funny western send-up with Garner hired as town sheriff. Often hysterical.
TANGLED (2010). This is classic Disney. And I do mean classic. Though the makers have used state-of-the-art technology to produce lifelike images and the heroine is much heartier than her animated ancestors, the mood and sensibility of TANGLED is reminiscent of the iconic hand drawn imagery found in SLEEPING BEAUTY, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS and all the best from Mickey’s beloved studio. Now, if you remember, in the best of the Disney classics there were some startling situations that would have required a PG rating had that rating been around (a certain fawn’s mother comes to mind). Same goes for TANGLED, with an evil old woman kidnapping a baby and wounding the hero with a very big knife. But the creators carefully follow the violence with humor and justice in order to make the scary moments palatable for the wee ones. Disney is in the details, both with the use of witty dialogue and clever plot development and just-right voice characterizations. Where the studio’s recent Oscar winner, UP, brilliantly touched the heartstrings as well as the funny bone, Tangled brings back the charm and coziness of CINDERELLA and SLEEPING BEAUTY. (PG)
THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES (1946). Abbott & Costello. Mistaken as a traitor during the Revolutionary War, Lou is sentenced to haunt a country estate until proven innocent. Some funny moments. (Caution: Contains a séance.)
THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT, PARTS 1 & 2 (1974, 1976). The perfect musicals for those of us who love the artistry of MGM’s stable of stars yet hate the corny story lines that so often accompanied the ’30s and ’40s musical comedies. No silly scenarios here, just Astaire, Rogers and about a hundred other luminaries doing what they do best.
THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1940 version). Sabu. Outstanding special effects for the time, and a very imaginative script about a young merchant who frees a genie.
TIME CHANGER (2002). Starring Gavin MacLeod and Paul Rodriguez, this time-travel adventure concerns a Bible professor from 1890 who travels through time to the present. The action/adventure illustrates the pit a society falls into when it sheds itself of an ultimate authority. Involving, TIME CHANGER is full of Christian teaching, and contains a powerful ending. Ask for it at your Christian bookstore.
TOM THUMB (1958). Stars Russ Tamblyn and is based on the Grimm fairy tale. Features Peter Sellers and Terry Thomas, and great music from Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke. Oscar-winning special effects.
TREASURE ISLAND. This Robert Louis Stevenson classic has been remade several times. Most critics agree that the 1934 version with Wallace Berry and the 1950 version with Robert Newton are the best.
WAY OUT WEST (1937). Laurel & Hardy travel west to present a deed for a gold mine to the daughter of their deceased friend. Great score includes “Trail of the Lonesome Pine.” One of their best.
WHAT’S UP, DOC? (1972). Barbara Streisand, Ryan O’Neal. Rated G. Very enjoyable screwball comedy set in San Francisco.
WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS (1974). Affectionate story full of charm and lessons of responsibility. Stars James Whitmore.
WHITE FANG (1990). Klaus Maria Brandauer, Ethan Hawke. A young man befriends a wolf in this Jack London tale. Beautifully photographed in Alaska.
WIDE AWAKE (1998). Joseph Cross, Rosie O’Donnell.PG (1 obscenity from the lead’s best friend; 1 mild obscenity repeated over and over as the lead runs from a bully, but when he passes a cross with the suffering Christ on it, the boy apologizes; 1 expletive from the football coach; the boys innocently examine a magazine featuring a bikini-clad woman, but I did not feel this was exploitative, and the picture is not predominantly shown to the audience—the youngsters are merely curious about the opposite sex; the best friend does not believe in God – until the end; deals poignantly with the loss of a grandparent). A young boy enters fifth grade at a Catholic school for boys while dealing with the death of his beloved grandfather. One of the most sensitive and entertaining movies I have seen in quite some time. It shows the lad searching for God so he can ask if his grandpa is okay. The film deals perceptibly with questions concerning death and our Creator, but it is not a sermon. The writing is true to boyhood thoughts, mischief, and dialogue. It may be a little intense for very young ones who do not understand death, but questions such as the one our hero asks a troubled priest, “Do you ever feel like giving up?” will relate to older kids and adults alike. There’s no crudity associated with this film as it is with most kids’ movies. The boy, terrifically played by young Joseph Cross, learns forgiveness, compassion and faith. And Grandpa, played by a superb actor, Robert Loggia, stays true to the philosophy, “Hold on to your faith. Faith will get you through,” even when he learns he is dying. The Movie Reporter does not tell its readers to attend movies, but I’d rather film goers see a film like this, with life lessons, than others with a blatant disregard for biblical teachings. As a reporter who unfortunately sees very few films with positive messages, I was thoroughly entertained and moved by WIDE AWAKE. Use TVG
YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942). James Cagney as song-and-dance man George M. Cohan. Cagney rightly won Best Actor Oscar.
YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (1938). All-star cast in very funny Frank Capra film about an eccentric family. Won Best Picture. Dated, but still amusing.
YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939). Henry Fonda. Sterling rendition of Lincoln’s struggles as a lawyer and statesman.
YOURS, MINE AND OURS (1968). Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda. Based on a true story of a widow with eight kids who marries a widower with ten. Lucy is very funny in this film for the whole family.